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Rural couple wonders if graffiti was aimed at them

About three weeks ago as she drove to pick up a friend and then head to an artists’ meeting in St. Paul, Deana Pass saw the symbol on the back of a stop sign.

Two weeks later she saw the second one on a stop sign much closer to her town of Martell home.

The drawings -- crudely formed swastikas splashed with orange paint -- were especially upsetting to Pass.

She and her husband Franklin are both Jewish. As far as she knows, they are the only Jewish family in the area.

“I didn’t realize that I’d be so upset,” said Pass.

She said she’d thought those symbols were things of the past, something seen only in books.

“The first night after I saw the second one, I didn’t sleep all night,” said Pass. “It bothers me because I am Jewish, and that symbol is associated with the Second World War.”

Since she has no idea who painted the graffiti, Pass doesn’t know if the culprits know its meaning or if they were intended to intimidate.

A swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany in the early 1900s and has become strongly connected to Nazism, anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish people.

A Pierce County Sheriff’s Department incident report indicates the one sign -- at the intersection of 650th Street and 780th Avenue in the town of Martell -- was reported and investigated Sept. 4, nearly two months before Pass saw it.

The deputy who investigated the incident reported a swastika was spray-painted on the road as well as on the sign. He notified the town of Martell board chairman about the vandalism.

That sign has been replaced as has the second one, on the town of Gilman side of the intersection of 770th Avenue and 490th Street.

But Pass, her husband and friends don’t think the concern should stop there.

For more on this story, please see the Nov. 21 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.