2016 | Schools

Hogan Condemns Hate Crimes During Visit to Rockville Jewish School

Governor says state justice officials in close communication with county police

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Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to a group of students on Friday at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville.

Bethany Rodgers

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday blamed a climate of “frustration and anger” for fueling a rash of hate incidents in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state.

During a visit to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Hogan said state law enforcement officials have stayed in close contact with police in Montgomery County, a community recently roiled by anti-Semitic incidents in local schools.

“We absolutely will not tolerate any kind of hate crimes here in Maryland or anywhere else,” Hogan said. “We’re going to provide whatever assistance we can, and we’re on top of it constantly with all the local jurisdictions, particularly Montgomery County.”

Last month, the Montgomery County police chief said the county so far in 2016 had seen a 17-percent spike in reported hate crimes compared to the same time period the prior year.

Among recent incidents, swastikas were found in a bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda in November and were spray-painted at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda in October. Earlier in October, someone used a caustic substance to draw a swastika on a football field at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg.

In November, a sign at a Silver Spring church was defaced to read, “Trump Nation whites only.”

While some have faulted President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric for inciting bigotry, Hogan simply attributed recent incidents to tensions across the nation.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration and anger out there in the country, and we need to figure out a way to bring everyone together,” the Republican governor said.

Matthew Bellas, lower school principal at Charles E. Smith, a private K-12 school of about 800 students, voiced appreciation for Hogan’s recent overtures to the Jewish community. The governor visited a Jewish school in Baltimore earlier this week, traveled to Israel in September and is hosting a Hanukkah party on Sunday.

“We live in a difficult time where people from different ethnicities and different communities are having a hard time communicating,” Bellas said. “So to have him come to promote that kind of understanding between different communities is really wonderful.”

However, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan said in a Friday phone interview that she wishes Hogan would acknowledge the role Trump has played in sowing discord.  

“I feel this administration is trying to walk the line in neither supporting nor condemning Donald Trump. It is completely obvious to anyone paying attention that the recent spike in hate crimes and hate graffiti is due in large part to the tone that he and his campaign established over the past year and a half,” Kagan (D-Rockville) said.