Lincoln Memorial in Washington defaced with expletive

Tourists walks past a papered-over column where a vandal scrawled obscene graffiti in spray paint on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S. August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Lincoln Memorial in the U.S. capital was spray painted with expletive graffiti that was discovered on Tuesday, days after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, over an American Civil War-era monument.

The graffiti appeared to read “f*** law” spray painted in red on a column of the memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the American president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the United States.

The National Park Service said in a statement that it was removing the graffiti from the monument and a Smithsonian Institution directional sign blocks away that was also vandalized with spray paint.

The U.S. Park Police said in the statement that they were investigating.

The graffiti marks the second time this year that the Lincoln Memorial, one of Washington, D.C.’s major tourist attractions, was defaced. In February, the monument to Lincoln, the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial, were vandalized with a marker pen.

The Park Service said that a monument preservation crew was removing the graffiti at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday using a mild paint stripper.

A Park Service photo showed the graffiti on a column of the memorial, and Twitter erupted with opinions on whether it said “law” or “Islam.”

“Could the person who defaced the Lincoln Memorial please come back and write more clearly so we know who to be mad at,” comedy writer Chase Mitchell wrote on Twitter.

Lincoln was president during the 1861-65 Civil War, and the vandalism was found days after deadly weekend violence at a far-right rally at a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The unrest has intensified a national debate over whether monuments to the pro-slavery Confederacy are symbols of heritage or hate.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Marcy Nicholson)

Brazil cities paralyzed by nationwide strike against austerity

A demonstrators holds a placard in front of a burning barricade during a protest against President Michel Temer's proposal to reform Brazil's social security system in the early hours of general strike in Brasilia, Brazil, April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

By Brad Brooks and Pedro Fonseca

SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Nationwide strikes led by Brazilian unions to protest President Michel Temer’s austerity measures crippled public transport in several major cities early on Friday across this continent-sized nation, while factories, businesses and schools closed.

In the economic hub of Sao Paulo, the main tourist draw Rio de Janeiro and several other metropolitan areas, protesters used barricades of burning tires and other materials to block highways and access to major airports.

Police clashed with demonstrators in several cities, blocking protesters from entering airports and firing tear gas in efforts to free roadways.

Many workers were expected to heed the call to strike for 24 hours starting just after midnight Friday, due in part to anger about progression this week of congressional bills to weaken labor regulations and efforts to change social security that would force many Brazilians to work years longer before drawing a pension. In addition, the strike will extend a holiday weekend ahead of Labor Day on Monday.

This will be Brazil’s first general strike in more than two decades if it gets widespread participation.

Authorities boarded up windows of government buildings in national capital Brasilia on Thursday, fearing violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

Demonstrations are expected in other major cities across the Latin American nation of more than 200 million people.

“It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil,” said Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of trade union group Forca Sindical.

Violent protests have occurred repeatedly during the past four years amid political turmoil, Brazil’s worst recession on record, and corruption investigations that revealed stunning levels of graft among politicians.

Nearly a third of Temer’s cabinet and key congressional allies came under investigation in the scandal this month, and approval ratings for the president, who replaced Dilma Rousseff last year after her impeachment, have fallen even further.

Rousseff’s Workers Party grew out of the labor movement, and her allies have called her removal for breaking budget rules an illegitimate coup.

“Temer does not even want to negotiate,” said Vagner Freitas, national president of the Central Workers Union (CUT), Brazil’s biggest labor confederation, said in a statement. “He just wants to meet the demands of the businessmen who financed the coup precisely to end social security and legalize the exploitation of workers.”

Marcio de Freitas, a spokesman for Temer, rejected the union’s criticism, saying the government was working to undo the economic damage wrought under the Workers Party government, which had the backing of the CUT.

“The inheritance of that was 13 million unemployed,” he said. “The government is carrying out reforms to change this situation, to create jobs and economic growth.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janiero; Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Lisa Von Ahn)

Hooded youths in Venezuela mar opposition efforts at peaceful protest

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrator sits next to a fire barricade on a street during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Veron/File Photo

By Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) – Protesters blocked a highway in Venezuela’s capital Caracas for nearly eight hours this week in an effort to show the opposition’s dedication to civil disobedience as their main tool to resist President Nicolas Maduro.

But by the end of the afternoon, hooded youths had filled the highway with burning debris, looted a government storage site, torched two trucks and stolen medical equipment from an ambulance.

“This is no peaceful protest, they’re damaging something that belongs to the state and could be used to help one of their own family members,” said Wilbani Leon, head of a paramedic team that services Caracas highways, showing the damage to the ambulance.

Anti-government demonstrations entering their fourth week are being marred by street violence despite condemnation by opposition leaders and clear instructions that the protests should be peaceful.

Such daytime violence also increasingly presages late-night looting of businesses in working-class areas of Caracas, a sign that political protests could extend into broad disruptions of public order driven by growing hunger.

The opposition’s so-far unsuccessful struggle to contain its violent factions has helped Maduro depict it as a group of thugs plotting to overthrow him the way opposition leaders briefly ousted late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2002.


The unrest has killed at least 29 people so far and was triggered by a Supreme Court decision in March to briefly assume powers of the opposition Congress. Maduro’s opponents say the former bus driver and union leader who took office four years ago has turned into a dictator.

The vast majority of demonstrators shun the violence that usually starts when marches are winding down or after security forces break up protests.

That gives way to small groups of protesters, many with faces covered, who set fire to trash and rip gates off private establishments or drag sheet metal from construction sites to build barricades.

They clash with security forces in confused melees. Police and troops break up the demonstrations by firing copious amounts of tear gas that often floods nearby apartment buildings and in some cases health clinics.

The opposition has blamed the disturbances on infiltrators planted by the ruling Socialist Party to delegitimize protests, which demand Maduro hold delayed elections and respect the autonomy of the opposition-run Congress.

But even before rallies devolve into street violence, tensions frequently surface between demonstrators seeking peaceful civil disobedience and those looking for confrontation – some of whom are ordinary Venezuelans angry over chronic product shortages and triple-digit inflation.

“If we just ask him ‘Mr. President, would you be so kind as to leave?’ he’s not going to leave,” said Hugo Nino, 38, who use to work at a bakery but lost his job after Maduro passed a resolution boosting state control over bread production.

“Resistance, protesting with anger, that’s how we have to do it,” he said.

He and some others at the Caracas highway sit-in on Monday morning bristled at opposition leaders’ calls for non-violence.

An unrelated group of people collected tree trunks and metal debris to barricade the road. They covered one section with oil, making it dangerous for police motorcycles to cross it.


By 4 p.m., opposition legislators had started walking through the crowd with megaphones, asking that people leave the protest as had been planned.

The thinning crowd remained calm until a tear gas canister was heard being fired in the distance. Demonstrators reacted by banging on a metal highway barrier with pipes and rocks.

A small group then broke into a government compound that houses cargo trucks and highway-repair materials, and made off with cables, pipes and wooden pallets and other materials for barricades.

The team of paramedics that works in the unguarded compound did nothing to stop them, out of what they said was concern for their personal safety. They did halt two youths trying to steal a car with an eye toward setting it alight.

The demonstrators later set fire to two cargo trucks.

One teenager, stripped from the waist up and with a t-shirt covering his face, urged nearby reporters to take pictures of the blaze but drew the line at appearing himself.

“Delete that video,” he said, pointing to a Reuters reporter filming him.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer; Christian Plumb and Andrew Hay)

Jewish cemetery vandalized in New York, third case in two weeks

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Tom Gannam

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The vandalism of more than a dozen headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Rochester is being investigated by a New York hate crime task force, the third known case of a Jewish cemetery desecration in the country in the last two weeks.

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he ordered the investigation at Waad Hakolel Cemetery given the wave of bomb threats that later proved hoaxes targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has condemned the threats and attacks, although he has at times also questioned whether some perpetrators might be opponents of his seeking to link his new presidency with a rise in anti-Semitism.

Trump’s election campaign last year drew support from some white nationalists and right-wing groups, despite his disavowals of them.

Besides the toppling of headstones at the Rochester cemetery, images of the deceased embedded on at least half a dozen headstones had been scratched away, although it was not clear how long ago, said Karen Elam, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

“It’s clear vandalism,” she said in a telephone interview after touring the cemetery on Thursday afternoon to photograph the damage. “Any vandalism of a Jewish cemetery is de facto anti-Semitism.”

Michael Phillips, president of the non-profit organization that oversees the cemetery, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper that there was no proof the vandalization was a case of anti-Semitism, citing the smaller scale of the damage in Rochester.

About 100 headstones were knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last weekend, and about 170 headstones were knocked over in a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

Officials at the cemetery in Rochester did not return calls seeking comment. In 2014, vandals toppled more than 40 headstones at another Jewish cemetery near Rochester, but local police concluded the vandalism was not motivated by anti-Semitism, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

Muslims raise $78,000-plus for vandalized Jewish cemetery in Missouri

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Tom Gannam

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Muslim Americans have helped raise more than $78,000 to repair vandalized headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, according to an online fundraising page, amid attacks and threats against Jewish institutions.

About 170 headstones were toppled or damaged at the century-old Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery over the weekend, according to cemetery staff.

Some Jewish groups described the vandalism and threats as the latest evidence that anti-Semitic groups have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. His campaign last year drew the support of white nationalists and right-wing groups, despite his disavowals of them.

“Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration,” the fundraisers said on their website. More than 2,700 people had donated $78,546 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Jewish community centers across the United States have reported a surge in bomb threats, all of which have so far proved to be hoaxes. On Wednesday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League, one of the country’s most prominent Jewish advocacy groups, said its national headquarters in New York City received an anonymous bomb threat but was later given the all clear.

Trump condemned the threats as anti-Semitism for the first time on Tuesday after repeatedly declining to do so when asked by journalists last week. Some Jewish organizations have criticized his approach, saying they fear that the groups that supported Trump had become more active.

The fundraising effort was launched by Linda Sarsour, a liberal political activist, and Tarek El-Messidi, the founding director of Celebrate Mercy, a non-profit organization that teaches the public about Mohammad, the founder of Islam.

On Tuesday night, Sarsour posted on Twitter that she was raising the funds “in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers.”

Sarsour was a supporter of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, and went on to become one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, which drew record crowds to the capital on Jan. 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Cemetery staff, who did not respond to a request for comment, were still calculating the cost of repairing the damaged tombstones as of Tuesday. The organizers of the fundraising campaign said they would donate any excess funds to repair “any other vandalized Jewish centers.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Grant McCool)

Chicago man faces hate crime charge in synagogue vandalism

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Chicago man has been arrested and charged with a felony hate crime for allegedly smashing the window of a city synagogue and putting swastika stickers on its front door, police said on Wednesday.

Stuart Wright, 31, was arrested by the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday. He has been charged with one felony count of hate crime to a church or synagogue and one felony count of criminal damage.

Wright is scheduled to appear in a Chicago bond court on Thursday, police said in a statement.

Police said Wright smashed the large front window of the Chicago Loop Synagogue early on Saturday and affixed swastika stickers to the building’s front doors.

The attack, which was captured on surveillance video, was condemned by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

There have been a number of hate and bias incidents reported recently in the United States. In January, a fire gutted a Texas mosque, with federal law enforcement officials ruling it arson.

On Sunday, a story about subway riders in New York working together to clean up neo-Nazi graffiti went viral on social media.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney#)

Mexico gas price hike spurs looting, blockades as unrest spreads

Demonstrators march after gas prices are raised in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexicans angry over a double-digit hike in gasoline prices looted stores and blockaded roads on Wednesday, prompting over 250 arrests amid escalating unrest over the rising cost of living in Latin America’s second biggest economy.

Twenty-three stores were sacked and 27 blockades put up in Mexico City, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said, days after the government raised gasoline costs by 14 to 20 percent, outraging Mexicans already battling rising inflation and a weak currency.

Mexican retailers’ association ANTAD urged federal and state authorities to intervene quickly, saying 79 stores had been sacked and 170 forcibly closed due to blockades.

Deputy interior Minister Rene Juarez said over 250 people had been arrested for vandalism and that federal authorities were working with security officials in Mexico City and the nearby states of Mexico and Hidalgo to address the unrest.

“These acts are outside the law and have nothing to do with peaceful protest nor freedom of expression,” Juarez said in a press conference late on Wednesday.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said earlier on Wednesday that the price spike that took effect on Jan. 1 was a “responsible” measure that the government took in line with international oil prices.

The hike is part of a gradual, year-long price liberalization the Pena Nieto administration has promised to implement this year.

State oil company Pemex said on Tuesday that blockades of fuel storage terminals by protesters had led to a “critical situation” in at least three Mexican states.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Jewish Neighborhood in San Antonio Struck with Anti-Semitic Graffiti

A predominantly Jewish neighborhood in San Antonio has been struck with vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti.

Residents first noticed the graffiti as they left morning prayers at an orthodox synagogue on Wednesday.

“We came out of prayer at 7 o’clock this morning and were greeted by broken car windows, and graffiti on the car saying jew, and then a swastika and all types of graffiti that were hate graffiti,” Senior Rabbi Arnold Scheinberg told Fox San Antonio.

One of the defaced items was a memorial to victims of the holocaust that was spray painted with a swastika.  Synagogue officials say that over 30 vehicles and houses were damaged in some manner by the vandals.

The synagogue serves about 300 Jewish families, most of whom live in the neighborhood.

“I want to tell those who did this that you have done something destructive,” said Rabbi Scheinberg. “Your life could be much better if you could have more love than hate.”

“We’d be happy to help you find it,” he added. “If you want to learn a little bit more about the people you hate, we could arrange that, too. (You could) learn more about Jews and people of color so you don’t just hate blindly.”

Vandals Cause Ten Thousand Dollars In Damage To N.C. Churches

A group of vandals attacked churches in North Carolina leaving one with ten thousand dollars in damage.

The first church were struck last Saturday.  Bales Memorial Wesleyan Church in Jamestown, N.C. had their sign broken, windows smashed and parking signs ripped from the ground.  Flower beds were destroyed and the building struck with eggs and silly string.

Messages spray painted on the church included “He hates you!”

Grace Baptist Church in Greensboro found similar damage to their facility on Sunday.

Pastor Carl Pulliam said that Bales Memorial Wesleyan suffered around $10,000 in damages.  The other church said it would cost at least $300 to repair a broken window but wouldn’t say how much it would cost to repair the cosmetic damage.

“Why would someone stoop so low to vandalize a church? In a word: Sin! The prophet Jeremiah says that ‘the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things,’” Coward wrote in a post on Facebook. “Yes, it’s true that Satan opposes God and he is probably laughing about this vandalism. But God’s shows us the destructive sin nature found in all mankind—including each one of us!”

Pastor Pulliam said he’s not angry at the vandals and forgives them.  Pastor Paul Coward of Grace Baptist Church agreed.

“[W]e need to listen to the words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount, ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44),’” Coward stated.

Vandals Deface Pro-Life Display At Clarion University

Vandals defaced and destroyed crosses that were part of a pro-life display at a Pennsylvania university.

Students for Life at Clarion University played the crosses.  The 350 crosses were part of a display called “Cemetery of the Innocents” and each represented 10 aborted children that day.

Overnight, a number of the crosses were pulled out of the ground and thrown in trashcans.  Others were defaced with messages indicating their connection to activists against a recent Indiana religious freedom law.

The crosses were also placed in a manner that is a traditional anti-Christian placement.

“[All] 350 crosses were pulled up and re-inserted in inverted fashion, a well-known anti-Christian symbol,” the group Students for Life reported. “Additionally, red paint was splattered on crosses and signs. Even eerier was the mock bloody footprints of an infant painted in front of the display.”

“Pro-Choice” was written on the sidewalk near the mock footprints of an infant.

University police claim they are investigating the act.

“I ask that as a community of educators and students, we come together and reflect upon our commitment to our rights and responsibilities of expression,” university President Karen Whitney said in a statement. “I ask that we use dialogue and discussion to engage very differing viewpoints in ways that leave all of us better for the experience.”

The display has since been restored.