Klahanie neighbors united last weekend after red spray paintings with racist tone were discovered in Sammamish. Eastside council members, religious leaders, even children gathered at the peace assembly in an effort to re-establish community solidarity.
“We don’t tolerate the acts that transpired last week, and we value all that call Sammamish home,” said Sammamish Mayor Christie Malchow, speaking to the crowd. “We’ve already taken that bad and turned it into something good.”
The event’s venue, Klahanie Park, was most recently hit by the unknown vandal. Authorities discovered the graffiti early on Feb. 24, bringing the number of incidents up to 18. This time the red spray painting appeared to be “nonsensical” and free of racist tone, said Sgt. Christine Elias. In an email report, an officer described the painting on the park structure as appearing wet, at about 2:30 a.m.
Over the weekend, enhanced Sammamish patrols circulated the area, in an attempt to find leads to the unknown suspect or suspects. Officials hope to capture those responsible for the paintings that include scribbles and swastikas, on cars, homes, signs and mail boxes. Until they discover what the suspect’s intent is, the act is being approached as a hate crime.
“It’s hard to know motivation when there’s no suspect to talk to,” Elias said. She added that the department is taking the crimes seriously, and that she doesn’t want others to be in fear.
A kind of clown theme is prevalent in some of the graffitti.
Elias shared that the word clown, or references to clowns, was found in multiple cases of what was discovered around town. There was also the phrase “Ride til I die” and at Klahanie Park, the word “honk” with a sad face and heart were painted on one side of a building and the words “not hute” were displayed on the other wall.
During the gathering, police Chief Michelle Bennett vowed to find the suspect and inform the public when it happens. However, she said the focus should be on the positives, not on the crimes.
“I’ve never been more proud to be part of the community, and we are all a part of this same community,” she said. “The collaboration and the love, the acceptance that you have all shown to one another. The kindness, you’ve shown to one another is what really gives me faith.”
An official from the Anti-Defamation League said the crimes in Sammamish were indicative of larger trends the organization is seeing. In 2017, hate crimes increased in Washington by 32 percent, according to a report by the FBI.
Rabbi Shalom D. (Berry) Farkash, a Klahanie neighbor, said in the 15 years he’s spent in the community, he’s experienced “only love and only friendship.” The words that were shared, he said, gave him and others in the Jewish community strong feelings of camaraderie, “needed in times like this.”
Sammamish councilmember and Kahlanie resident Jason Ritchie, a Jewish American, condemned the depictions of anti-semitism. He came to the “ idyllic, little community” 15 years ago from Seattle. He found everything needed to raise a family, he said. When he thinks of Klahanie, he thinks of family.
“This is my family, you are all part of my larger family,” he said. “So when crazy, stupid things like this happen, when these vandals and racists and bigots do stupid things like that, I know that’s not us. I know that. We all know that. The question is, where do we go from here? How do we teach our friends, our families, our neighbors about each other so that they know that hurts.”