December 2, 2021

Swastika, other graffiti downtown

Todd R. McAdam/Managing Editor

The style is different, but the graffiti found on a building at Clinton Avenue and Church Street in Cortland refers to a “Rush,” which was painted in a series of downtown graffiti acts in 2017.

The swastika painted on the side of the Unitarian Universalist Church on Church Street in Cortland had been painted over by Monday afternoon.

Two doors to the east, Steven D. Besler had sprayed cleaner and scrubbed the side of his wall where more graffiti appeared, but still needed to do more.

And in between in a building at Church Street and Clinton Avenue, the paint remained: “I missed you Rush guy.”

“You’ve got to keep spraying and scrubbing and scrubbing,” said Besler, owner of Shaw & Boehler Florist at 31 Clinton Ave.

The swastika is a form of hate speech, and Cortland police say they’ve received no other reports of hate symbols other than the swastika on the exterior door on the north side of the 3 Church St., church, reported on Saturday.

“The complainant was unable to provide police with any leads or suspects and stated that the damage was done sometime between midnight the previous evening and the time of the call,” Detective Lt. Michael Strangeway said in a news release. “The complainant reported that the church there has not experienced any problems like this in the recent past.”

“The image was shocking to see on our historic church and we are still early in our emotional processing,” church board member Autumn Pfister posted on the church’s website. “We are grateful for all of your encouraging messages.”

The Rev. Darcey Laine could not be reached for comment.

The graffiti at the church may — or may not — be related to the graffiti sprayed onto the florist shop and the building next door, Strangeway said. The non-church incidents both included a reference to “Rush,” including “I missed you Rush guy” on one building.

Two years ago, buildings across downtown Cortland were tagged with “Rush” in a two-week graffiti spree. Two people were eventually arrested and charged with felonies in connection with those incidents, but police never reporting finding a third suspect.

“Although there is no direct evidence to support it, I would assume those would be somehow associated with recent ‘Rush’ tags,” Strangeway said in an email.

However, Besler doesn’t think it’s the same vandal from two years ago. “Rush” tagged his building in 2017, too, and he spent time and money cleaning that paint off, just as he did Monday morning. “This signature was not them,” he said.

Strangeway said anyone with information that could help could call detectives at 607-758-8307. In the meantime, Besler has to finish cleaning and repainting the side of his building, next to a sign that reads “2012 Small Business of the Year.”

The can of cleaner isn’t too expensive, he said, perhaps $10, but he ran out in mid-chore. Then there’s the scrubbing and wiping and repainting. The total damage? A couple hundred dollars.