On Sunday, Nov. 5, on-duty police officers awoke to anti-LGBTQ+ phrases inscribed on the rainbow-colored crosswalk in the Swarthmore Borough. The crosswalk at the intersection of South Chester Road and Park Avenue was spray-painted with the phrases “don’t be gay,” “no gays,” and images of male genitalia. The crosswalk was repainted by volunteers to remove the messages that Tuesday, according to CBS News.
“The police department takes any violation of law seriously. This incident is highlighted even more, since the act targeted a specific group of people,” Chief of Police Raymond C. Stufflet wrote in an email to The Phoenix. “Anyone having any concerns should contact the Swarthmore Borough Police Department.”
Stufflet stated that the department does not yet have any suspects or leads.
The crosswalk was painted with pride-themed colors this past summer after the Swarthmore Borough Council approved the measure during the legislative meeting on June 12. Council Member Susan Smythe, who also serves as Swarthmore College’s American Disabilities Act (ADA) Program Manager, introduced the motion, which passed unanimously.
Director of Public Safety Michael Hill shared concerns about the vandalism. Since the Swarthmore Police Department has jurisdiction over Swarthmore Borough, the college was not initially notified about the vandalism and is not involved in its investigation.
“I am saddened and troubled by the vandalism of the crosswalk in town. The actions clearly run counter to the college’s values of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Hill said.
However, Public Safety has requested more information about the incident and is confident that the Swarthmore Borough will maintain open communication with the college and provide relevant information concerning the campus community.
Although Swarthmore Police does not have suspects or leads, Yashar Sabitov ’25 said that they think the local teenagers could have been involved due to Sabitov’s previous encounters with them.
“I don’t want to point fingers, but from my personal experience with teenagers in the Swarthmore town and the stuff I’ve heard from my fellow classmates, I would say the high school students could totally have been involved,” Sabitov said. “There’s been many instances of teenagers verbally attacking Swarthmore students and calling them slurs … it does make me wonder what the parents of these teenagers are doing in the meantime – clearly not raising their children properly.”
Sabitov was specifically referring to an incident that took place on Sept. 24, 2022, that involved “juvenile, white males [who were] possibly high-school aged.”
“Students were walking along Chester Road under the railroad tracks when an unknown number of individuals began yelling racial and gender-related slurs at them, and then threw beverage cans and rocks at the Swarthmore students,” Associate Director of Public Safety John Bera wrote in an email to the Swarthmore community after the incident.
Sabitov, who was returning back home to their dorm with friends, was one of the students attacked during the incident.
“As we were walking up from the tunnel under the SEPTA station, some teenagers started throwing stuff at us from above where the [campus store] parking lot is and kept yelling various homophobic and racist slurs. Either a can or a water bottle hit me in my face, but luckily I wasn’t hurt,” Sabitov recounted.
Sabitov mentioned how the encounter impacted their sense of safety on campus moving forward.
“Some of us tried to run up to the hooligans and confront them, but by the time any of us reached the front of the campus store where the teenagers were located at the time of the attack, the attackers were already scattered,” they said. “For the rest of that semester, I was kind of worried whenever I would walk in that area late at night.”
Although the crosswalk vandalizers have not been identified yet, Hill recommended relaying any relevant information of the incident to Public Safety or Swarthmore Police.
“In the meantime, I urge anyone with information about the vandalism to contact the Department of Public Safety or the Swarthmore Police Department at 610-543-0123,” Hill said. “I also want to take the opportunity to remind members of our community who have been impacted by this situation that the College has resources and services available to support you.”