PHILADELPHIA A quiet neighborhood in Mount Airy was shaken up Thursday by racist, anti-Semitic, and sexually graphic graffiti on garage doors and a church.
In purple paint, the perpetrators drew swastikas and penises, and wrote derogatory terms for African Americans, along with the names of gangs, on three houses on the 600 block of East Durham Street and at Germantown Christian Assembly on Mount Pleasant Avenue.
Graffiti was also found on the 400 block of East Durham, although the messages were not as offensive.
The neighborhood has been lauded for its economic, ethnic and religious diversity, so residents were baffled as to why racist messages would surface.
"People are more forward-thinking rather than regressive [here], and people are generally very nice," said Josephine Nelson, 65, who grew up in the area and has lived in her East Durham house for over 30 years.
"They would never have cause to feel that people in this neighborhood may be intimidating to them or anything," she said of the perpetrators.
"You can die 4 ya country but Imma live for mine," read one message scrawled on a garage door. "Be redy to die!" read another on the window of the church's office building.
Other messages included references to the gangs Bloods and MS-13.
As police continued to investigate, residents just want the graffiti removed.
Juanita Washington, an office assistant at Germantown Christian Assembly, said church officials are waiting to get clearance from the police to clean off the paint.
Nelson and her neighbors have contacted the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network for assistance in the cleanup.
Besides getting her property cleaned, Nelson wants an apology: "I don't want anybody to go to jail . . . but it was wrong."
She and her husband are African American, and she believes the acts of vandalism were targeted at the families who live in the affected houses.
Detectives have been looking into the four complaints since Thursday evening. The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit group that works against anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hate speech has also reached out to police and those affected.
Washington has a hunch as to who might be responsible.
"We just think it's some foolish youngsters who have nothing to do with their time except mischievous things," she said.