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Love over hate: Lakewood rallies together after swastikas spray painted in driveway, street

LAKEWOOD, Ohio-- After swastikas were spray painted on a Lakewood driveway and street, the community is rallying to spread love, not hate.

People throughout the city have chalked messages of inclusion and unity on sidewalks, posting pictures on Facebook.

Laura Ross' children were among about a dozen who pulled out chalk to draw hearts and other messages on the sidewalk in front of homes on Arthur Avenue.

"It's one thing to come out here and have fun and color chalk, but I think teach them while they're young, love over hate," Ross said, saying she used the vandalism as a teachable moment for her kids. "To see this quick, strong reaction to a really hateful act is just what I would think would happen in Lakewood."

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, a man living on Belle Avenue reported that someone had spray painted two swastikas in their driveway over night. Lakewood Police found a third Nazi symbol in the road.

Investigators said it's not clear who painted the symbol or why the victims were targeted. Captain Ed Hassing said the vandalism might not be considered a hate crime because Ohio's ethnic intimidation law focuses on why the victim was targeted.

"Lakewood is a very diverse, open, welcoming community that I'm really happy to be a part of, so definitely surprising," Ross said.

In addition to chalking, the community is planning to come together for a unity rally Sunday at 2 p.m. in City Center Park, in front of the Marc's plaza on Detroit Avenue.

"Immediately after we saw the swastikas, many in the community felt the need to do something," said Sarah Kepple, of Action Together Lakewood Area, which is organizing the rally.

Lawmakers and faith leaders were expected to attend.

"We want to send the message, first of all, to all Lakewood community members that we are united together for diversity," Kepple said. "We celebrate everyone who lives here."

Investigators wanted anyone with information about the vandalism to call Lakewood Police.