Sylvan Park Becomes Latest Neighborhood to Fall Victim to Hate Crime: Community Responds with Show of Unity, Support, Love
Sylvan Park community joins in calling out hate crimes.
On a recent chilly Sunday morning, residents of Sylvan Park woke to learn that five homes in the West Nashville neighborhood were vandalized overnight. The homes were spray painted with swastikas and messages of hate. One home also had what appeared to be a flag torn down, another had gay pride banners burned. It’s the latest in a string of antisemitic and racist incidents that began last summer and now it appears things may have escalated to the level of hate crime.
Criteria for what constitutes a hate crime varies by state, and the federal government has its own definition. According to the state of Tennessee website, a hate crime is:
A crime committed by a perpetrator who intentionally selected the person or the property that was damaged or otherwise affected by the crime, in whole or in part, because of the perpetrator’s belief or perception regarding the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or gender of that person or the owner or occupant of that property.
The police recovered footage from one of the homes’ Ring doorbell cameras and are investigating. Law enforcement remains hopeful they will be able to track down the perpetrators.
The message from the community in the wake of the crimes is clear. Lizzie Harvey is one of the homeowners whose home was vandalized. “When something like this happens, it affects the whole community, and we are not going to be silent.”
Children create messages of love and inclusion during community cleanup of hate crime vandalism.
Rather than immediately clean the mess off their brand-new house, Harvey and her husband Oscar Anderson quickly took to social media to plan a neighborhood cleanup of the graffiti on their home. By Sunday afternoon, dozens of people showed up to not only clean, but to join together to comfort and support each other. Harvey and Anderson provided art supplies for the children to create signs of unity, love, and inclusion. Anderson said, “We are an inclusive neighborhood where everyone is welcome.”
Most of those who came were not Jewish, but still the sight of the hate messages and swastikas was shocking. Neighbor Carrie Rogers said, “We were stunned. My jaw dropped and I was speechless. This is disgusting and should not be permitted anywhere. This is a very diverse neighborhood, where we love everyone.”
One Jewish Sylvan Park resident, said her children attend Akiva School, and the incident made her fearful and confused. “I think maybe I should take down our Akiva sign from our yard, but I was told to leave it as a show of support. I just don’t know what to do.” Resident Ilene Mason, said it was hard to believe something like this could happen in her neighborhood. “I’ve been here three years, and never imagined something like this. It is so shocking.”
During the cleanup event, the Harveys read a statement from the Sylvan Park neighborhood group, which read in part:
“…We reject and refuse any fruitless attempts to derail and distract us from sustaining this hospitable, safe, and positive place to be good neighbors. We will never choose the ways of anger, hatred, or disrespect…We are building our lives and friendships here and like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved.”
This latest incident follows a recent “Day of Hate” that was planned nationally by white supremacist groups. News of the planned day stirred up fear within the Jewish community, and spurred law enforcement to step up patrols throughout the city. Despite the threat, no major incidents were reported. In fact, social media was filled with messages of support from around the world and in Nashville. The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville’s Instagram page on that day read, “As white supremacist groups try to organize antisemitic activities…the Federation and the community stand strong to show there is no place for hate.”
According to the Anti-defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2022, antisemitic incidents rose 36% in 2022 over 2021, and is the highest level since the agency began reporting in 1979. Antisemitic vandalism, like the ones that occurred in Sylvan Park, rose by 51%.
In the wake of the Sylvan Park incidents, both Governor Bill Lee and Mayor John Cooper issued statements condemning the crimes. Governor Lee’s read:
“The Governor strongly condemns anti-Semitism, white supremacy and hate of any kind. We understand local law enforcement is investigating and reiterate that acts of hate have no place anywhere and will not be tolerated in the state of Tennessee.”
And Mayor Cooper’s read:
“Nashville stands united against the hate and bigotry these disgusting acts represent. Grateful to Chief Drake and his team for their ongoing work to track down those responsible and hold them accountable. We will not tolerate antisemitism or discrimination of any kind in our city.”
Anyone with information about the crimes, please contact Nashville Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463, or The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville at www.jewishnashville.org.