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In D.C., Chinese Zodiac Symbol Becomes Jew Rat Graffiti

Street art became anti-Semitic graffiti in Washington, D.C. after vandals wrote “Jew” on images of rats meant to evoke the Chinese Zodiac.

Passerby first noticed the graffiti at the intersection at 7th and H Streets in the heart of D.C.’s Chinatown on Aug. 3, said Eli Schechner, a Princeton University junior who’s doing an internship at a foreign policy think tank. In May, the city decorated the crosswalks there in honor of the neighborhood’s character and history, and included the signs of the Chinese Zodiac, including horses, snakes, bulls — and rats.

Schechner noticed mentions of the graffiti on Twitter that day, and then saw it himself the next day — after the city had tried to remove it, and someone had redone it.

“It was a little early in the morning to be seeing signs of anti-Semitism,” Schechner said.

The graffiti was cleaned up later in the day and had not reappeared as of August 5. Schechner hopes it stays gone, but also has to admit this anti-Semitic graffiti was a strong example of the genre.

“It’s a clever way to get anti-Semitism out there rather than just writing a swastika on a building,” he said. “I’m glad they’re embracing nuance.”

Contact Helen Chernikoff at or on Twitter @thesimplechild




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