The Elsmere Police Department is investigating vandalism at the Mary E. Smith Memorial Cemetery, including the spray painting of anarchist symbols on the signage at the entrance to historic Black Cemetery and its headstones.
Elsmere Police Chief Joe Maier said vandals knocked over about 30 headstones from their bases in early December and marred some with black spray paint. Vandals spray painted a capital A surrounded by a circle – uniformly recognized as an anarchist symbol – on the cemetery entrance sign and on some gravestones and other graffiti.
âThe use of anarchist symbols related to vandalism in a historic black cemetery doesn’t really make sense,â said Matt Dowling, administrator for the town of Elsmere. “Most anarchists are generally not racists, but rather believe in social equality and are wary of wealth, privilege and government.”
For this reason, city officials believe minors may be the source of the vandalism, but that does not lessen the severity of the offense, they say.
âWhether this crime was perpetrated by a minor, an anarchist or a racist, it has no place in the town of Elsmere,â said Mayor Marty Lenof. âOur city has a long history as one of the most diverse communities in Northern Kentucky and this foul play is not just an affront to people of color or those whose loved ones are buried in this cemetery,â but to all the people who live in our city. “
The cemetery, located at 1120 Martin Luther King Avenue, is managed by a volunteer board of directors. Officially founded in 1950, it is one of the first African-American cemeteries in northern Kentucky. Board members believe the vandalism occurred sometime after December 3.
Crystal Madaris, secretary of the cemetery council, said she would submit a claim to the cemetery insurance company to see if the vandalism is covered by its insurance policy. Madaris said the cemetery board also plans to contact Duke Energy to see if they can place additional street lights near the cemetery.
Dowling said city officials met with some of the cemetery board members, listened to their concerns and discussed how they could work together to prevent similar events from happening again in the future.
âUnfortunately, at this point we have no witnesses to the vandalism and we have not found any video footage recording any evidence of perpetrators approaching the cemetery or committing this crime,â Chief Maier said.
Maier said Elsmere Police are continuing their investigation and asking anyone with information about this to call the police department at (859) 342-7344.