By Jessica Easthope
The Catholic community in Howard Beach is outraged.
According to the NYPD, Sunday night around 9 p.m. the ground along Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy’s fence line was spray painted, the graffiti read, “most segregated schools in the country,” and “Desegregate NYC.” Similar graffiti was found on the other side the school saying “get cops out of schools” and “Abolish NYPD.”
“The message was one that tries to harp on different anti-cop and racial characterizations that I don’t think are very true at least of the school and the parish community,” said Father Marc Swartvagher, the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Church.
Father Marc says the school is immensely diverse, in fact, students of color make up half of the Catholic academy.
Parishioners of the church decided to clean the graffiti themselves with power washers and paint remover. Like the rest of the community, PJ Marcel was shocked to see the graffiti, he went to the school and until the announcement the school was closing earlier this month, sent his two daughters to Our Lady of Grace.
“There’s no better nurturing, loving and caring environment than to have a child attend a Catholic school,” Marcel said.
Marcel says the school is full of diverse families who have one thing in common, they want their children to have a Catholic education.
“There’s people from all walks of life attending these schools and these programs, getting an education, having a better quality of life, it’s an attack directly on any religious institution,” said Marcel.
Father Marc says if he were to sit down with the people responsible for the vandalism, faith would motivate him to offer help.
“What can we put into play, what are the policies we can ask our politicians to advocate for, I also think our faith has some of the answers to some of the hurt and difficulty you’re experiencing in our culture and society,” said Father Marc.
The police are investigating the incident and have been reviewing surveillance cameras from homes in the area. No arrests have been made.