The Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery in Avondale, also known as Pioneer Cemetery, was vandalized Thursday morning with Hispanic racial slurs and a swastika, police said.
City staff was made aware of grave markers that were tagged with graffiti after contractors came early Thursday morning to maintain the landscaping and discovered the damage, said Ingrid Melle, a spokeswoman for the city of Avondale.
Melle said city workers removed the markings on Thursday.
A police report was filed, but officials are not sure who may be responsible, Melle said.
A candlelight vigil was scheduled to be held at 8 p.m. Thursday at the cemetery to denounce hate crimes, said City Councilman Lorenzo Sierra.
“We are gathering however many people we can get,” said Sierra. “We just want to show that hate is not welcome in Avondale.”
Avondale police Officer Jaret Redfearn said the department is continuing to investigate.
Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery, located at 12701 W. Indian School Road, was established in 1917 as the final resting place for migrant farm laborers who worked in cotton and other fields in the area, according to the city of Avondale.
A large number of people buried in the cemetery were victims of the flu epidemic in 1918. Military veterans also are buried there, as well as at least one former Avondale City Council member, Amado B. Sernas.
The city said the cemetery serves as a reminder of Avondale’s agricultural past and the sacrifices of the men and women who labored for generations.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by this outrageous incident. Such acts of intolerance and hate will not be condoned in our community, and we hope that those involved will be brought to justice,” said Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise. “On behalf of the Avondale City Council, our hearts go out to the families and the descendants of those buried at the Goodyear Farms Cemetery. The city of Avondale stands by you.”
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