Baltimore County police said Tuesday that they arrested and charged a man with vandalism after linking him to a string of antisemitic graffiti and property destruction. Benjamin Katz, 31, has been charged with multiple counts of malicious destruction, littering and the use of a hate symbol.
Residents of the 10800 block of Greenspring Avenue in Timonium were shocked to find a mailbox had been spray-painted with a swastika and the word “Cox,” ostensibly referencing Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox. Endorsed by former president Donald Trump, Cox is viewed by many as a member of the far-right.
The graffiti was a sobering discovery for those who live in the largely Jewish community. Whether the vandalism was an act of protest or endorsement remains unclear, for now.
Police say they have been investigating a series of politically-motivated acts of vandalism over the past few months. At least five separate incidents have occurred, each with increasingly drastic damage. Though they initially did not believe the vandalism to be indicative of bias, they later confirmed that it was political in nature.
Both Cox and Democratic Maryland State Sen. Shelly Hettleman, whose district includes the area where the incident takes place, condemned the incident when it happened. Hettleman called the vandalism “despicable” in a Twitter post addressing the matter, while Cox stated that it was “counter to the American way.” He also objected to the fact that his name and the address the vandalism occurred at were not being redacted in initial photos of the graffiti.
“I’m glad they were able to find someone who was responsible for the graffiti, and I think there was some desecration of signs, too,” said Hettleman after Katz’s arrest. “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to encroach or vandalize anyone’s property, especially in such a hateful way. I’m grateful for the police department taking action.”
This was the latest incident in a disturbing trend of vandalism featuring antisemitic symbols and messaging appearing in the Baltimore area over the past few years. In March, residents of the Elvatontown community in Glen Burnie found three swastikas spray-painted in the area. A year prior, headstones at the Jewish German Hill Road Cemetery in Baltimore were vandalized with hateful messages.
“It’s our job as respected and respectable U.S. citizens to [present] ourselves with dignity and respect,” Hettleman said. “I think that unfortunately, it’s all too common now, as we saw on Jan. 6, to take our political differences and act upon them in unlawful, violent and extreme ways.”
Police reported that Katz was released on recognizance, having agreed to appear in court and is currently awaiting trial.