A man has been arrested and charged with vandalism and assault after swastikas were painted on the graves of several Dominican friars and a security guard was assaulted at Catholic college on Monday evening.
A statement from Fr. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., and Fr. Kenneth Sicard, O.P., the president and president-elect of Providence College, Rhode Island, said that around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, public safety officers were alerted to the presence of a “suspicious man” at the on-campus cemetery. The cemetery contains the gravesites of deceased Dominican friars who taught at the school.
“Officers approached the individual to question what he was doing and to confirm the vandalism when they noticed the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the cemetery’s central cross and on several of the headstones, and was actively burning American flags that stood at some of the gravesites,” said the statement from Shanley and Sicard.
In total, seven headstones were defaced, along with the central cross in the cemetery.
The man proceeded to hit the security officer in the head and run away. He was later discovered hiding in bushes on campus, where he was subsequently arrested.
The college posted the following statement:
On Monday, June 22, 2020, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Providence College public safety officers on patrol responded to a suspicious male subject in the Dominican Cemetery on campus. Officers searched the area and located a male subject in the process of defacing grave headstones and burning gravesite flags.
Officers approached the individual to question what he was doing and to confirm the vandalism when they noticed the suspect had painted swastikas and anti-Catholic language on the cemetery’s central cross and on several of the headstones, and was actively burning American flags that stood at some of the gravesites. The central cross and seven headstones were defaced. The College has repaired that damage.
While officers attempted to question the suspect, he struck one officer in the head and fled the scene. The College’s public safety officer was treated for his injuries at the hospital and later released.
The campus was locked down with a shelter in place order once it was confirmed that the suspect may have been hiding on campus. At 10:39 p.m., officers and K9 units from the Providence Police Department and PC Office of Public Safety began searching the campus. The suspect was located hiding in bushes on campus and was subsequently arrested by Providence police. An all-clear was issued to the campus at 11:17 p.m.
We loudly and unequivocally condemn this racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic action, and the desecration of the gravestones of our beloved, deceased Dominicans who served Providence College so well and so faithfully for many years. In addition, we condemn this action in support and solidarity with the Jewish members of our community, many of whom enjoyed the friendship of those late Dominican friars. PC has a long and proud history of collaboration with the Jewish community in Rhode Island.
Our Jewish-Catholic Theological Exchange is a significant part of campus life, and has promoted interreligious learning, understanding, and friendship between Christians and Jews for decades. Our community embraces love and mutual respect for all people; there is no place for hatred on our campus.
Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80
Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. ’78 & ’82G