Two turtles with shells painted with what appear to be swastikas in bright, thick lines last week garnered national attention online. Now the creatures have been found by authorities, who have plans to clean, rehabilitate and relocate the animals.
The turtles, which were spotted at Gene Coulon Memorial Park Beach on Nov. 5, were brought to Renton residents’ attention on a community Facebook group. The post generated hundreds of reactions.
Other commenters shared they’d also seen the turtles recently and added more photos of the painted shells, including Mindy Doty.
In early October Doty was walking along a trail with her husband when they saw the two creatures. Doty said they called Renton Parks and Recreation, who told them they’d been getting reports of the markings.
She said it was incredibly offensive to her and her husband and that she was concerned about the safety of the turtles as well.
“I don’t know why someone would do such a thing, but I don’t believe that it speaks to the community of Renton and don’t want Renton to be tainted by such things,” Doty said. “I didn’t want to give the person any more attention so I didn’t post about it on social media until I’d seen the Renton police report.”
Renton Police Department stated in a Facebook post Friday, Nov. 8 it had found the turtles. The city’s parks staff and police are coordinating with USDA Wildlife Services and local nonprofits to rehabilitate the turtles and remove the graffiti. They are believed to have been placed in the park as they are not native to Lake Washington, police say. The turtles that are Red-eared Sliders, which while non-native have been known to live in the lake in recent years.
The identity of who placed the animals there, and the identity of who painted on their shells, is unknown.
About 25 people came together on Saturday, Nov. 9 to a rally against hate, started by Renton LGBTQIA+ Community Boardmembers.
“From protests to vandalism, Renton has experienced a number of hate-filled incidents this summer. Hate has no place in Renton,” Board Director Mical DeGraaf stated in a press release. “The Renton LGBTQIA+ Community supports the city in uniting against hate. We all must come together in solidarity with all living things.”
Board Directors Chad Cashman-Crane and Mical DeGraaf were at the event as well as Councilmember Ryan McIrvin and winner-apparent for council seat seven Kim-Khanh Van.
“It’s important any time there is an act of hate that we stand up against it,” McIrvin told attendees at the rally.
Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest Regional Director Miri Cypers stated they applaud the Renton community for coming together and speaking out against the incident.
“Hate-filled vandalism has no place in our communities. As antisemitism and all forms of bigotry continue to rise, we must treat all people and living things with dignity and compassion,” Cypers stated.
Officials in Florida had to release a statement in 2016 asking folks not to paint the shells of turtles after it happened several times in local parks. The paint can harm their ability to absorb vitamins from the sun, create respiratory problems and possibly get toxic chemicals from the paint into their bloodstream.