[quote_center]People think it’s not going to happen in our town[/quote_center]

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by David Miller

Loveland, Ohio – Resident, Bruce Leever sent these photos to Loveland Magazine on Friday. The graffiti was probably painted on Thanksgiving Day. The location is the Loveland Bike Trail, just at the border of the City of Loveland and Hamilton Township in Warren County, about 1,000′ north of Kiwanis Park.

hate-speech-2The “Pepe the Frog” meme, described by Leever as about 15′ wide, is used by anti-Muslim and white supremacist groups, but mostly by anti-Semitics to promote neo-Nazi propaganda. Lever said It appears the graffiti was painted by white racists because of the addition of the words, “Obama the King Nigger”, the crown on the frog’s head, and the addition of large ears and pronounced nose.

Pepe, is originally a cartoon amphibian introduced in the comic strip Boy’s Club by artist Matt Furie, however its innocence has been corrupted and used by hate groups.

hate-speech-4Lever said the public might just see the act of vandalism as a trivial act of a teenager with spray paint, but he found additional graffiti on a nearby tree painted with the name, “Trump”.  By the time Leever found the tree, it had been further painted by what he described as, “counter-graffiti” sprayed in red to change the meaning, “Love Trumps Hate.”

“No connection to the election? Ha,” Lever commented. “With the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trumps’s campaign he has emboldened people to do stuff like this. It’s happening all around the country now at an alarming rate.”

The hate message was painted directly in front of a bench that was placed on the trail to honor Leever’s deceased wife Judy. “I doubt that whoever did this knew anything about Judy or did this because it was a park bench to honor her, but its hard not to take this personally,” The Leevers raised their three boys not far from where the graffiti was found. Bruce Leever spoke about his Jewish wife and all of the Black children he and Judy welcomed into their home. Bruce coached youth basketball and Judy tutored and cooked for everyone. Children of all ethnicities and diverse cultures became their large extended family. “It is offensive for them as well,” Leever said slowly – repeating the names of the Black children, pausing to collect his emotions as he remembered each of them. Children of all faiths and ethnicity, were offered Passover meals at the Leever home. They are now young adults in the Loveland community.

The Anti-Defamation League added Pepe the Frog to their database of hate symbols in 2016 and have denounced Donald Trump’s campaign for its supposed promotion of the meme.

Lever called the Loveland Police Department Friday and an officer met him on the trail and explained the incident was not within their jurisdiction because it was in Hamilton Township, however they did call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to report the vandalism. The Loveland Bike Trail is part of the Little Miami Scenic State Park, maintained by ODNR. On Saturday morning, Lever said that he was going to call the Hamilton Township Police to report the crime.

Loveland Police Chief Sean Rahe was asked today what charges the perpetrator might face. He said, “Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal knowledge about the bench. Assuming the information your provided is correct, this incident would qualify under Ohio’s ethnic intimidation law. The perpetrator could be charged with criminal damaging and ethnic intimidation. Ethnic intimidation is a separate charge and is one penalty degree higher than the underlying offense.”

The Ohio Bar Association says, “A judge or jury must find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the criminal act was motivated by race, color, religion or national origin of another person or group of persons. Once this additional finding is made, the offense is elevated into a higher-level misdemeanor or felony.”

Loveland Magazine asked the Hamilton Township Police Department about the incident and the only response was from the Township Administrator, Ray Warrick. After checking with his police department and ODNR, he said, “It looks like ODNR has jurisdiction.”

Loveland Magazine had earlier asked the ODNR about the incident. Brooke Betit, their Public Information Officer responded via email, “On Friday, Nov. 25, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was notified by the Loveland Police Department about graffiti located on the Little Miami Scenic Trail. ODNR personnel have covered the graffiti and the vandalism is under further investigation.” She also said, “ODNR asks that if anyone sees suspicious activities or vandalism taking place, to contact #DNR, a non-emergency phone line.”

By late Sunday morning the Pepe meme with the offensive reference to President Obama was entirely painted over with black spray paint.

ThinkProgress says, “Various forms of hatred surged during Trump’s campaign — especially Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and general support for white supremacy. But his election appears to have emboldened vitriol of all kinds, triggering a rash of harrowing — and sometimes violent — incidents that has left many Americans afraid. Just one week out from Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 300 reports of hate incidents, with more pouring in every day. One week later, their tally breached 700.”

Chief Rahe was asked if there has been any other incidents of ethnic intimidation reported to the Loveland Police Department recently. He said, “I am just back from a vacation and have not reviewed all activity in the last week. But, this is the only one I am aware of.”

Rahe concluded, “I’m certainly glad this situation was resolved quickly. It’s sad to see someone filled with such hatred.”


Read more about Judy Leever…

Judy Leever Owned a Thousand Pairs of Shoes



 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for writing this Joanna. I will take your suggestions about what Loveland Magazine can do more of – to heart… I promise you.

    Your comments have brought a stream of thoughts tonight about Judy Leever too and what a wonderful impact she had on Loveland. I nominated Judy to be honored with a posthumous anointment as a Loveland Valentine Lady. I think it unfortunate the effort went nowhere.

    I do think the BLM and racial justice movement “woke” a lot of town folk here this past 12 months, but it also highlighted the reality of Loveland in many not so positive ways too. Loveland is one bad spark, one unfortunate move… from getting itself into serious trouble… I have talked to people about how vulnerable we are and I will do that more.

    There but the grace of God has spared us but it’s just too thin a membrane to not do as you say and work always to make “the city a more inclusive open progressive place.” We must do all we can to avoid the pain and broken hearts.

    Thank you for your inspiration.

    Best regards,

    David Miller – Publisher

  2. David! Thank you for writing this article. Thank you for documenting this moment of hatred that happened over thanksgiving immediately after the 2016 elections. I searched for this article today because I just listened to a fascinating podcast about the co-opting of “Pepe The Frog” that Marc Maron put out this week. Listen to the podcast here: Episode 1155 WTF with Marc Maron “Bad Internet w/ Marr Furie”
    https://open.spotify.com/episode/16IUSMQK5UD175lzCDofwa?si=waCTPGFVQCm5719Y7ERlPw
    The podcast tells the story of how this frog became the GO-TO Meme for white supremacy and hatred. Donald Trump himself re-posted a picture of HIMSELF AS PEPE during his 2016 campaign…

    I just think so many people, members of my family included, say to themselves, well the country is a mess but my town isn’t effected. My town isn’t racist. My town doens’t have these kind of problems. And the historic truth is that our little town of loveland DOES have these issues sewn in. And without proper awknowledgment of what is going on…..dangerous ideas can take off…

    I knew Judy Leever’s son, Mike. He was the sweetest kid and I always adored their soft spoken family. I write this comment because I just want to thank you for your journalistic efforts and encourage more of it.

    Press the community of Loveland to have a conversation on race and tolerance of others. Press the community of Loveland to actively make changes that make the city a more inclusive open progressive place.

    All my best,
    Joanna

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