Mount Dora Residents Respond After Hate Hits Their Town | Not in Our Town

Mount Dora Residents Respond After Hate Hits Their Town

Early last month, a group of four vandals set out on a hate-fueled excursion in their Mount Dora, Fla., neighborhood--spray cans in hand. Their target was the Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora, a newly erected synagogue that was scheduled to open in two weeks. 
On the morning of July 9, 2011, Mount Dora residents woke up to a shocking scene. Anti-Semitic graffiti, as well as other hate message and profane slurs, were spray-painted on several structures of the synagogue. 
While it took police officials weeks to arrest James Maple, 22, two juveniles, and twenty-year-old Cory Gallman--the latter lived right down the street from the synagogue-- it took community members a mere two hours to react to the hate.

A community unites to clean up graffiti sprayed on the 
walls of a new synagogue in Mount Dora, Fla. on 
July 9, 2011. Image source: 
Armed with wire brushes, paint remover, and bleach, a group of residents, city officials, and pedestrians gathered at the scene of the crime and began to scrub. 
“We want to show what truly represents Mount Dora,” city Councilman Vasco Watters told the Daily Commercial. Clearly, this does not include hate. 
Members of the congregation, who are strictly prohibited from working on Sabbath, or Saturday, stood by and watched in awe as strangers banded together to wash away the profanity scrawled blatantly across the walls of their synagogue. 
More than 100 residents reportedly participated in the cleanup, while support also came in the forms of donations that will be used to help the synagogue install lights and security cameras.
Mount Dora Mayor Mellisa DeMarco thanked community members for their initiative and support. 
“They stepped forward and came forwards in all kinds of ways. That is the characteristic of the citizens of Mount Dora. ... I hope that the Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora takes away from this of how very welcomed they are in this community, and how very proud we are to have them here,” said DeMarco. 
In a further act of good faith, the very own mother of one of the juveniles involved in the crime insisted that her 16-year-old son come clean to the police. 
“His mother was very insistent that he tell the truth to the police to get to the bottom of this awful thing,” said Mount Dora Police Chief T. Randall Scoggins. In the wake of the strong community response,  Mount Dora police are prosecuting the vandalism as a hate crime, thus setting the tone for the town’s intolerance of intimidation, harassment, and hate.


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