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The police are investigating the vandalism of Black veterans’ gravesites, which could be declared a hate crime, CBS News reports.

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, vandals were suspected of removing American flags and leaving the poles planted near the graves in the African-American section of Greenwood Union Cemetery in Rye, New York.

Gravestones were also toppled at the historic cemetery that opened in 1840. It’s the final resting place of Black veterans who fought in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and both World Wars.

The Rye Police Department said they’ve gathered forensic evidence from the flag poles and hate crime charges are a possibility, according to CBS.

Rye Police Commissioner Michael Corcoran spoke with CBS about the crime:

“This is something that is a despicable act – you’re tampering with the American flag on people who are war veterans — and it’s something we’re not going to tolerate in Rye.”

David Thomas, of the Friends of the African-American Cemetery, told CBS that Black cemeteries are frequently the targets of vandals. He called what happened at Greenwood “unconscionable.”

He added: “We live in a country where some people believe that America is theirs and theirs alone, and that is not the case.”

CBS noted that Samuel Eshmond Bell is buried at the cemetery. He was a Civil War veteran who served with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment that was the subject of the movie Glory.



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