Bates College graffiti: AG will not pursue investigation

Part of a long Instagram post by the Bates student government which supports Palestinian rights and denounces Bates College’s decision to call the police over anti-Israel graffiti in May.

LEWISTON – A national civil rights group on Friday applauded a decision by the Maine attorney general’s office not to pursue an investigation into hate crimes involving the graffiti that appeared on the Bates College campus last month.

In mid-May, Bates was tagged with what some described as anti-Israel graffiti and flyers. Among the written comments were “Free Palestine”, “Stop ethnic cleansing” and “Israel kills innocent people”.

Gwen Lexow, Director of Title IX and Civil Rights at Bates, told students at the time that university officials overheard a number of people “expressing deep concern about the impact of language. contained in leaflets and graffiti, especially on Jewish members of our campus community.

Bates officials have asked Lewiston Police to investigate. But while some viewed graffiti as a hate crime, others did not, and the issue divided the student body.

Days after the graffiti appeared, the Bates student government joined with 14 other student organizations in denouncing the university’s decision this week to ask police to investigate some anti-Israel graffiti.

“We fear for our communities of color, especially the Brown, Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim students, who will most likely be the targets of this investigation,” according to a statement from the group, which also included a call to “release the Palestine ”.

Lewiston Police investigated and forwarded a report to Maine AG, which decided not to pursue the matter.

“Even if we knew the identity of the person responsible for the writings on the New Commons Dining Room, the complaint would not lead to action under the Maine Civil Rights Act,” according to a letter police said. received from Detective Margie Berkovich, a police investigator. GA office. “The writings left on the building express opinions which are not actionable, and there is no evidence that the chalk used to write these opinions caused any material damage to the building. Nevertheless, we appreciate that the complaint has been reported and that it has been recorded for information purposes.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which describes itself as the country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, released a statement on Friday saying it welcomed the move.

“The attempt by the Bates College administration and Lewiston police to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli human rights violations and war crimes is unacceptable,” said CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper , in a press release. “We welcome the decision of the Maine Attorney General’s office not to pursue a hate crime investigation into this incident, and we call on leaders and law enforcement across the country to uphold the rights everyone to express their support for the Palestinian people. “

Lexow was not available Friday to comment on the decision.

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