Walnut Street Bridge, parts of art district vandalized with swastikas

Spray painted symbols on or near the Walnut Street Bridge Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. Staff photo/ Sarah Grace Taylor

The historic Walnut Street Bridge and parts of the Bluff View Art District in Chattanooga were vandalized with swastikas on Sunday morning, according to Mayor Andy Berke.

Berke said in a statement that the anti-semitic symbolism goes against Chattanooga's values and makes some residents feel unsafe.

"While we do not know the intent of those who perpetrated this act, we know that the end result is residents feeling less comfortable in their home. [Our] city is resolved, as it always has been, to condemn anyone who seeks to intimidate, discriminate, or foment violence against any ethnic or religious group," he wrote Sunday afternoon.

"Our Public Works crews will be working this Sunday to remove these symbols of hate from our bridges and walls," Berke wrote. "Our entire community will continue to work together, day after day, year after year, to make it clear that these kinds of destructive acts and attitudes have no place here."

Berke, who is Jewish, said the Chattanooga Police Department is investigating the incident, and he is confident that those responsible will be held accountable.

A police spokesperson confirmed the investigation and said the department is seeking any available surveillance footage of the bridge. There were no suspects as of late Sunday, police said.

photo Spray painted symbols on or near the Walnut Street Bridge Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. Staff photo/ Sarah Grace Taylor

The Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga released a statement Sunday, saying the community was "disturbed and saddened" by the actions.

"It's a surreal feeling to see acts of antisemitism in my hometown. I take this and any act of antisemitism and all forms of hate very seriously. I have always known that the Nazi swastika and white supremacy go hand in hand," Executive Director Michael Dzik wrote. "Although unsettling and disturbing, this only gives the Jewish community more resolve to continue fighting against hate. Additionally, we will continue building bridges of friendship with all peoples and all communities. I am confident that the Jewish community does not stand alone in this effort to eliminate antisemitism and all forms of hate; we are stronger together."

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.