Hate raid despised
The men charged with the desecration of Jewish graves at the Karangahape Rd cemetery appeared in court again yesterday.
Nathan Symington was remanded on bail after first appearing in the Auckland District Court on Monday for charges related to the desecration of Jewish gravestones.
The 23-year-old is accused of intentionally damaging multiple gravestones at the Symonds Street Cemetery by painting swastikas and Nazi insignia on them.
He was in court again yesterday alongside two other men, aged 19 and 20, who faced similar charges.
The men were arrested at the weekend and police have not ruled out further arrests.
The crimes have disgusted many in the community and mayor Len Brown has condemned the affront.
"This kind of vandalism has no place in our city," Mr Brown says. "This is an abhorrent attack on a special part of old Auckland."
About 20 gravestones were vandalised at the cemetery, on the corner of Symonds St and Karangahape Rd, some time between last Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning when the damage was discovered.
Some headstones had large graffiti swastikas crudely sprayed on them while others had expletive-ridden anti-Semitic messages scrawled over them.
Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Cathy Casey says the incident is a "tragic act of hate".
Dr Casey spoke briefly at a Socialist Aotearoa rally held at the cemetery during the weekend, where she offered a minute's silence as a show of respect for the Jewish community.
"It's an outrage beyond words, and that's why I thought a moment's silence was appropriate."
She says she is glad the police caught the offenders, and believes the incident may be linked to a National Front march in Wellington during the weekend.
"Everything I have seen leads me to believe it was a vendetta by an organised hate group, and we have no place for that in Auckland."
The cemetery, Auckland's first, has long been the target of vandalism and also attracts people sleeping rough.
Efforts to remove the offensive graffiti have begun and Mr Brown says further work to improve the cemetery is planned.
Earlier this year the Waitemata Local Board agreed to a $1.6 million funding boost to improve maintenance and security at the cemetery, among other things.
The money was to clean up vegetation, make pathways safer and better maintain grave sites.
"The council and the local board are taking steps to improve the environment in this cemetery and prevent further such attacks," Mr Brown says.
New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman says it is incredibly disappointing to see the damage.
He believes the last such attack was on a Wellington cemetery in 2005. Attacks like this usually came after international unrest but he couldn't think of anything specific that would have sparked the latest incident.
Auckland City Harbour News