WESTFIELD, NJ - A Westfield resident was walking her dog in nearby, tranquil Brightwood Park when she came across a disturbing sight. What appeared to be a swastika and the number 19188, in addition to other letters and numbers, prompted her to notify the police, friends, and a news editor. The graffiti with the Nazi symbol is considered a hate crime and is being investigated by Westfield Police.
A closer look reveals more than initially considered. The swastika is left-facing, which has roots in Buddhism and Hinduism that are separate from the Nazi symbol which is a swastika with right facing hands moving in a clockwise direction. However, any consideration that this is not a Nazi inspired hate symbol is eradicated when you realize the numbers are not 19188 but 14/88, a very common symbol used in Neo Nazi communication.
Eighty-eight is commonly used as code among Neo-Nazis to identify each other. “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so 88 is taken to stand for HH which in turn means “Heil Hitler.” The two Nazi manifestos written by convicted Order terrorist David Lane are "Fourteen Words" and 88 Precepts. These numbers are usually found in combination such as 1488 or 14/88 by Neo Nazis. Further investigation into what the other letters and numbers symbolize is underway.
The dog walker regularly walks her dog in Brightwood Park, and is certain the graffiti symbol was painted within the past few days. "If you are walking in Brightwood Park, you cannot miss it." As to the size of the swastika, she said it's bigger than a basketball, "more like a basketball backboard! It was huge."
This is not the first time the swastika symbol has been linked to hate crime in Westfield, NJ. Two years ago three Westfield teens were arrested on charges of vandalism for burning a swastika on the Scotch Plains High School football field.