update deskU.S. News

Northern Virginia sheriff probing anti-Israel graffiti at four Starbucks stores

“Hate speech and destruction of property will not be tolerated in Loudoun County,” said Sheriff Mike Chapman of Loudoun County, Va.

Police car. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.
Police car. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.

The Loudoun County, Va. sheriff’s office is investigating “anti-Israel/pro-Palestine graffiti and property damage” that vandalized four Starbucks stores in Ashburn on Monday night.

“Hate speech and destruction of property will not be tolerated in Loudoun County,” said Mike Chapman, sheriff of the county, which had the highest median household income in the nation in 2022.

“We are actively investigating these incidents as we do all similar acts and are determined to identify and charge whoever is responsible,” Chapman said.

According to the sheriff’s office, “various words and symbols” were spray-painted on the outsides of the stores. The vandalism has been removed or covered up by Starbucks staff, it stated.

After Starbucks staff saw and reported the graffiti on Tuesday morning, the sheriff’s office “promptly responded and believes the incidents are related,” it stated.

At one of the stores, staff found “free Palestine” and “I heart genocide” painted on the building, NBC4 Washington reported. A resident of the county told the news station that “if you want to have a discussion, find a place a place where the discussion is welcome instead of somewhere where people, I guess, are trying to get coffee in the morning.”

Another Loudon County resident told NBC4 that she has been boycotting Starbucks, “because I am supporting Palestine in that sense, but I would never, you know, there’s people who work there, who have, that’s where they get their paycheck. Like, I wouldn’t go as far as trying to affect them in that sense.”

Images that circulated on social media appeared to show the inscriptions “death to capitalism” and “victory to Hamas,” and “boycott,” “Sbux loves genocide” and “free Palestine.”

Gary Katz, a former candidate for the county’s board of supervisors, praised the sheriff’s office for “acting swiftly to investigate.”

“Sadly, these incidents are unsurprising,” Katz wrote. “Responsible leadership should be bringing the community together and calming tensions, not adding to them.”

A Starbucks spokesperson told Inside NoVA (Northern Virginia) that the company is “aware of vandalism occurring overnight on May 20 at several of our stores in Ashburn.”

“The experience and well-being of our partners and customers is core to who we are, and we continue to work with local authorities to support their ongoing investigation,” the company said.

“False statements that have been made about who we are and what we stand for are being shared through social media, which has led to some acts of vandalism,” it added. “Starbucks has never contributed to any government or military operation in any way.”

As of July 1, 2023, Loudoun County had an estimated population of 436,347 and a median household income of $170,463 in 2022 dollars, per the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2022, the county had the highest median household income of any county in the nation.

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