CINCINNATI -- A day after swastikas, racist words and homophobic slurs were painted near the football field of Withrow High School in Hyde Park, students are rallying to replace the offensive words with something positive.
The rally began at 7:15 a.m. Monday after 140 students, alumni, parents and community leaders committed online to showing up at the school's football field.
"The first reaction might be violent, might be anger, might be hatred, the same as what the person intended for it to be. But let's think through, be clear, and come up with a response that's more accurately proactive," said Kareem Moffett, the mother of a sophomore and senior student at Withrow.
The vandalism happened late Saturday, and crews spent Sunday power-washing the words away. Parents say the hurt feelings remain, which is part of why state Rep. Alicia Reece, a third-generation Withrow alumna, wants the attorney general to investigate the incident. This incident marks the third time in two months swastikas have been painted on buildings in Cincinnati.
“It’s unbelievable,” Reece said. “Withrow was always a school that has great cooperation ... great diversity ... this is at least the second occurrence at least in Cincinnati. I was deeply hurt when I saw it happen to the Hebrew College, it seems to be a pattern."
One swastika at Withrow covered a parking sign, with the word "TRUMP" painted on the sidewalk directly in front of it. Well before he was sworn into office Friday, President Donald Trump told any of his supporters harassing minorities to "stop it."
— Matt Citak (@mattcitakWCPO) January 22, 2017
Reece condemned the acts of vandalism in the following statement Sunday:
“With two similar acts of hate, ethnic intimidation and property damage targeting educational institutions in Cincinnati, it is important the state steps up to become an active participant in the investigation and enforcement of state laws against these appalling and hostile acts. To that end, I will formally ask the state attorney general to investigate these as an emerging criminal pattern.
“As an alumnus and class president of Withrow High, I am personally discouraged and troubled by this intolerable affront to students, families, our community and state. Though these violating and hateful offenses seem to be too common these days, we must remember this hate does not reflect our values as a community and nation.”
Photos show another swastika, painted on a sidewalk, with "F*** n****** and f******" written above it, along with "-J. Cranley" -- appearing as though the vandal was trying to link the statement to Cincinnati's mayor, who has condemned past incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism and who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year's presidential race.
In a statement Sunday afternoon, Cranley said he was "outraged by this act of hate at Withrow High School."
"I am saddened that the grounds where students walk each and everyday has been used as a platform for racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry. Our police department is acting quickly to identify those responsible for this crime," the statement said.
More swastikas were painted on a metal roll-down window for concession sales and on the side of a building at the high school.
Nazis appropriated the symbol in the 20th century, and it's now widely viewed as anti-Jewish and racist.
Cincinnati police from District Two responded to the school for a report of criminal damaging.
Cincinnati Public Schools released a statement Sunday evening, which said district officials are working with police to identify who is responsible and to ensure the graffiti is removed before students return to school Monday.
"We are truly saddened by this event and want to assure our students and families that we will keep them safe," the statement said. "We have not received any threats against our students or staff."
This unfortunate event is further evidence of our need to heal and grow as a community. If this awful act encourages anything, we hope that it sparks continued dialogue among families about our need to come together as one country. Our diversity is an asset and should be celebrated.
We will have counselors at school tomorrow for students who need them.
Karrem Moffett, mother of a student, said the incident will serve as a powerful lesson in moving forward.
“Let's teach them how to not only acknowledge it, but deal with it effectively-- proactively,” Moffett said.
Cincinnati Public School Board President Ericka Copeland-Dansby shares the same sentiment.
"I want to mobilize our community -- in that we'll carry on with our day to day activities -- We will not be deterred,” Copeland-Dansby said.
School officials said all of the graffiti was removed by Sunday evening.
Representatives from the school district also said they have given surveillance video to police.
Earlier this month, someone painted a swastika on a sign at Hebrew Union College, a Jewish seminary on Clifton Avenue. Hebrew Union's president, Rabbi Aaron Panken, said the paint was easy to remove.
WCPO.com Editor in Chief Mike Canan contributed to this report.