Playground swastikas in Aspen make strong impression | VailDaily.com

Playground swastikas in Aspen make strong impression

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A local Jewish woman who discovered swastikas spray-painted on an Aspen-area playground Sunday said the experience "upset me to my core."

"It was like an African-American seeing (the N-word) on the wall," said Sue Shufro. "Any other Jew would react the way I did."

Shufro, a Burlingame resident, said she took her 7-year-old daughter to the playground at the development's Harmony Park about mid-afternoon Sunday and, at first, didn't notice the vandalism. However, two children she thought were about fifth-grade age took her over to the playground equipment and nearby boulders and asked if she'd seen it.

In black spray paint, she saw "666." She saw an upside down cross with the letters "RIP" painted beneath it. And she saw multiple swastikas.

"It was all this sort of evil stuff," Shufro said. "The swastikas were unmistakable."

She said she asked other parents at the playground if they'd seen the vandalism, but they didn't appear concerned.

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"They all kind of shrugged their shoulders," Shufro said. "They said it was probably some kids in the neighborhood."

Shufro called police, who arrived about 10 minutes later and began taking pictures and looking for empty spray-paint cans, she said.

"I said, 'Look guys, I'm Jewish,'" Shufro said. "This upset me to my core."

Aspen police Sgt. Rob Fabrocini, one of the officers who responded, said graffiti occasionally pops up in alleys around town, though not usually Nazi symbols.

"No, I haven't seen much of that," he said. "You're always concerned when you see stuff like this."

Still, he thought that because the vandalism occurred on a playground, it was likely kids playing with powerful symbols they don't understand.

"It's probably kids screwing around and not knowing what they're doing and how offensive (swastikas) can be," Fabrocini said.

He said he planned to forward pictures of the vandalism to the department's school resource officer, who will ask around at Aspen schools and see if teachers might recognize the style.

Fabrocini also wanted to get the word out to parents, in case any noticed black paint on their children's hands this weekend. The vandals used a sandbox toy as a stencil and would almost certainly have had paint on their hands afterward, he said.

In the meantime, Shufro said she continues to be affected by the symbols.

"This is what's going on now in our society because of the political climate," she said, citing incidents of hate and intolerance in this year's presidential race. "I don't want to think that because it's so disturbing. It makes me feel really terrible."

Rabbi David Segal of the Aspen Jewish Congregation agreed.

"Given this election season, stuff like this doesn't surprise me right now," Segal said. "There's been more overt anti-Semitism during this election than I can remember in my lifetime."

Jewish news reporters covering the campaign, for example, have been "viciously attacked" with shocking anti-Semitic statements, he said.

"Those kinds of things are all over social media right now," Segal said. "That's the context we're living in now and it filters down to kids."

jauslander@aspentimes.com