Leaders of a Hindu temple in Bothell have fast-tracked a plan to add some extra security cameras. This comes after the temple was tagged with racist graffiti over the weekend. The incident has gotten some international media attention and is still under investigation.
The graffiti was scrawled in bright red spray paint and easily visible across the huge parking lot.
Niranjan: "Right here on this big wall here. See there you can see."
Jones: "Wow, it’s really big."
Niranjan: "Yeah, they’d have to be tall."
Nitya Niranjan is a founding member and board chairman of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in Bothell. It’s one of the largest temples in the northwest. Most of its members are from India.
He points to where the graffiti has been painted over, but the image is still clear in his mind.
Niranjan: "It’s a swastika symbol, reversed. Nazi symbol. Then it says 'get out.'"
He shakes his head.
Niranjan: "I mean so many people are making home of this place and you say get out? Who has right to say get out in America?"
He says the swastika convinces him it’s a hate crime. And if it was a teenage prank, that’s one thing. But if it’s something more —
Niranjan: "If it’s done by a group, then we’re ready."
Jones: "To do what?"
Niranjan: "Whatever we can do to our capacity."
Jones: "To bring charges?"
A public school nearby was also tagged with similar vandalism, but with the more pointed message for Muslims to get out.
A spokeswoman with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office says the investigation is still open. But they have very little evidence to go on, and no witnesses have yet come forward.
Reports of hate crimes in the state have steadily increased in recent years. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs tracks these reported crimes, and its records show nearly 300 reports in 2013, the latest year available.
Just last month, the feds also started tracking hate crimes against more religious group, including Hindus.
Inside the temple, some visitors ring a prayer bell and light candles.
Niranjan says they plan to do more outreach about their culture and their focus on peace and non-violence.
And he turns to Hindu’s teaching to make sense of why someone would target them.
Niranjan: "Maybe he was not raised properly, so somebody really screwed up on raising this person. So maybe he didn’t get enough love, affection, guidance."
This temple has been in Bothell more than 20 years, and Niranjan says it’s the first time something like this has happened.
I’m Liz Jones, KUOW News.