Ellison asks Justice Dept. to investigate Jewish cemetery vandalism as hate crime

Ellison asks Justice Dept. to investigate Jewish cemetery vandalism as hate crime
© Keren Carrion

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate recent vandalism at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis as a hate crime.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE released Tuesday, Ellison calls for the vandalism to be "swiftly and thoroughly investigated."

Ellison cited "the recent surge in threats against the Jewish community, as well as the symbolic and violent history connected to the desecration of Jewish burial sites" in calling for the hate crimes investigation.

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More than 100 headstones were vandalized last week at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in University City, a suburb of St. Louis. Vice President Pence made a surprise visit to the cemetery, condemning the vandalism.

The vandalism came amid a series of bomb threats across the country targeting Jewish community centers. More bomb threats were reported again this week.

Ellison faced accusations of anti-Semitism during his recent campaign to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), with critics citing previous comments he made defending Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

In a 2006 letter obtained by CNN, Ellison said he had "long distanced myself from and rejected the Nation of Islam due to its propagation of bigoted and anti-Semitic ideas and statements, as well as other issues."
 
President Obama’s former Labor secretary Tom Perez on Saturday defeated Ellison for the top DNC position, but tapped the Minnesota congressman as his deputy.

In the letter to Sessions, Ellison wrote that “anti-Semitism poses a grave threat to our democracy, and every American’s Constitutional right to freely practice religion.”