Officials denounce Neo-Nazi graffiti in Coatesville, Valley

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Police are looking for information about who tagged walls, signs, pavement and a car with racist graffiti in Coatesville’s West End and neighboring Valley Township, late Tuesday evening.

According to police, a person or persons spray painted swastikas and racial epithets on walls garage doors and a Mercedes Benz, along with Neo-Nazi/White Supremacists codes. Police said that because of the type of paint used in the various locations, it is thought to be the work one person or group of persons. A total of three locations were hit in the city’s West Side, with more locations, including street signs and pavement, in Valley.

While police in Coatesville and Valley continue to investigate – and seek leads from the community — a number of local elected officials have issued statements condemning the actions.

“Let me perfectly clear: there is absolutely no room for this kind of hate in our communities. Not now. Not here in Chester County. Not anywhere,” state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) said. “We must continue to come together and renounce this for what it is – unacceptable garbage.

“We must reaffirm the very values upon which our county was founded – values of tolerance and freedom that emanated from Chester County’s Quaker tradition, have been reaffirmed by other faith traditions, and are a fundamental part of our Commonwealth and ultimately our nation,” he added.

Dinniman noted he sees this as a growing trend, nationally.

“Sadly, this appears to be part of a larger trend that’s occurring all over the country,” he said. “Earlier this year, we saw the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia. It is extremely disturbing, disappointing, and disgusting that after how far we’ve come as a nation that such hate still exists, but it does and our region is not immune to it. Still, cowards who vandalize under cover of night will not intimidate us. The steel of our communities is in our diversity. The strength of our nation is in our unity. In the words of Dr. King, ‘We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’”

State Rep. Harry Lewis Jr., (R-74), who is African-American and has had personal experience with the civil rights struggles of the past, expressed horror at the graffiti.

“I recall a time in my life when African-Americans and other minorities couldn’t respond to hatred,” Lewis said. “Fear silenced our emotions, and the consequences were beyond belief. I recall a time when my friends and I couldn’t dine at a restaurant simply because we were minorities. We retaliated by refusing to leave. While being chased out of that restaurant, we were shot at by white supremacists. There was no other explanation other than it was hate. This was a few decades ago, and it could have happened to anybody.

“Our community can do better; this isn’t the real Coatesville. This isn’t the home filled with all of the wonderful students and athletes who I’ve loved and respected. Our home takes pride in our racial differences, and our home stands tall for equality. Look at your neighbors. We are all different and we must accept and embrace one another. Our home can do better.

“It breaks my heart that we still have to fight for equality and against hatred. As the first African-American legislator in Chester County, I won’t stop. Our community has come too far to stop fighting. We’ve broken too many barriers. To the criminals who vandalized private property and thought they can set our community back, we won’t tolerate the hatred.

We are a community of diversity. We are black, white, Hispanic, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, gay, straight. We’re white, gray and blue collar. The hate of those who cannot respect their neighbors has no place in our community. Racial slurs won’t change us, and Nazi symbols won’t scare us.

“We’ve come too far to be set back. We’re moving forward with purpose and most importantly, we’re moving forward together as a united community of all races, religions and differences.

“We’re proud of who we are.”

Although the meaning of the swastikas and use of pejorative — racist and hostile — slang for African-Americans are evident to all, the numerical code might not be, but the numbers used are common code for Neo-Nazis and White Supremacist groups.

According to the Anti Defamation League, “1488 is a combination of two popular white supremacist numeric symbols. The first symbol is 14, which is shorthand for the “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The second is 88, which stands for “Heil Hitler” (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet). Together, the numbers form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs. As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement – as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses, such as  Some white supremacists will even price racist merchandise, such as t-shirts or compact discs, for $14.88.The symbol is most commonly written as 1488 or 14/88, but variations such as 14-88 or 8814 are also common.”

Much of the same is true for the 23:16 code:

“The number combination 23/16 is a numeric symbol used by white supremacists, particularly common on the West Coast. Substituting letters for numbers, the 23/16 equates to W/P or “White Power.” Occasionally the number 23 appears by itself, as a condensed version. Sometimes the combination is rendered as 16/23, in which case it is usually intended to mean P/W for “peckerwood.”

Anyone with information about the Coatesville incidents is asked to contact city police at (610) 383-7000. Tips can also be made by texting “Coatesville” + your tip to 847411 or online here. Anyone with information about the Valley incidents should contact the Valley Township Police Department at 610-384-8133.

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