Graffiti swastika reported on Centennial Park’s Polaris missile; city says the markings were removed immediately

Centennial Park is no stranger to graffiti. Just a short walk downhill from the park’s west parking lot rest a few concrete skate ramps peppered with spray-painted faces, initials and other indistinguishable marks.

However, on Saturday city officials received word of a particularly incendiary piece of vandalism at the park.

A small swastika was recently spray-painted on the northeast side of Centennial Park’s signature Polaris missile, which was given to the city of Lawrence by the U.S. Navy in October 1964.

A concerned resident emailed city officials about the graffiti on Saturday, noting that he had been enjoying the snowy weather and strolling through the park with his wife and daughter as they stumbled across the marking.

The swastika was quickly painted over by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said interim department director Ernie Shaw.

“My first guess was that it was not up very long,” Shaw said. “Usually when people are out in the parks and see something like that they’ll report it.”

“I called staff and they went out and looked at it and there was a little swastika at the bottom of the missile and we just painted over it,” Shaw added. “Below zero trying to paint something isn’t the best in the world, but we did get it covered up.”

Shaw said graffiti is regularly reported and covered up around the city but that this is the first swastika that has been reported in “a long time.”

“Who knows who’s doing it,” he said. “Whether it’s a neighborhood kid or what?”

Investigating instances of graffiti can be difficult for police, Shaw said.

“Unless it’s something they think is really gang related or something like that, it’s usually noted in the records and we just take care of it,” he said. “And if it becomes an ongoing thing, then it becomes more of a concern.”

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