UNION, NJ – Peter Jacob, Democratic candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Leonard Lance, held a news conference in front of his Union home Tuesday morning, where he said that spray-painted swastikas found on his home were a result of often-times incendiary national political climate.
"The rhetoric we are hearing nationally is trickling down locally,” said Jacob, who is Indian-American.
“My parents came here from India with 20 dollars in their pocket,” said Jacob, who was raised in Union. “They worked hard. This is our community. This nation has given us so much. This is our town, our state. We will not be intimidated.”
On Saturday, Jacob reported the first incident of vandalism when sometime during Friday night or early Saturday morning, swastikas were painted in ink on the curb in front of his home and that of a neighbor. The second incident occurred after midnight on Saturday when lawn signs were vandalized and swastikas were spray-painted on two walls in the back of the Jacob home.
“Whether it’s a candidate for Congress or a citizen,” said Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo, “we take this seriously. Rest assured, when this person is arrested, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We stand with Peter. We stand with all our residents in the township against any hate toward our residents.”
Major news outlets from the region, religious leaders from across the state, and Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen and Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh attended the news conference. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board,” said Bergen, “we absolutely reject this kind of heinous action here in Union County. Union County celebrates diversity within our towns.”
One person who was not there was Lance, with Lance's own statement noting that the incumbent -- who condemned the desecration of Jacob's home -- requested to attend the event but was told by Jacob's campaign that he was not invited due to his endorsement of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. Jacob refuted that perspective, saying that Lance was not invited because Jacob did not want to politicize the event.
Township of Union Police Director Daniel Zeiser said an active investigation is continuing. He said this was an isolated incident and “we will get to the bottom of it.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today strongly condemned the graffiti targeting Jacob's home. “The insertion of hatred into this political campaign is offensive to everyone and should be condemned by all,” said Joshua Cohen of the ADL.
"I grew up in this town," said Jacob, adding that a state-of-the art surveillance system has since been installed at his home.