The motto of the New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education is “Eliminating hate and intolerance one mind at a time.”
In an act of vandalism, “someone who is obviously full of hate and intolerance” shattered the large window of the Downtown museum, executive director Leon Natker said Monday.
The incident occurred last Thursday, just as the burial of congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was being televised from Atlanta. Behind the window was a large photo of an early 1960s civil rights march, part of a movement in which Lewis was a leader.
“It can’t be a coincidence that it happened just as the funeral of John Lewis was being broadcast on television,” said Natker. “It was a hit-and-run, and it was done by a coward.”
The deliberate damage, he said, “makes the point for why it’s necessary to have this museum – why now, more than ever, this kind of cultural institution is necessary in our current dialogue.”
The window, which cost about $1,000 to replace, was made with safety film, preventing shards of glass from spraying into the museum, located on Central Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.
The museum was closed at the time for renovations. Lyn Berner, the museum’s director of administration, was the only person in the building at the time of the incident, which is believed to have occurred in the hour between 12:15 p.m., when Natker left the museum, and 1:15 p.m., as Berner was leaving and discovered the vandalism.
“My office is way in the back and I didn’t hear it, and while we have security cameras they don’t point out into the street, she said. “It looked like someone took a hammer or a baseball bat and smacked the window.”
Natker said that a security gate across the front of the building will be installed by the end of the week.
The museum is expected to reopen on Sept. 1.
In another act of what was described as “extreme vandalism,” a state Human Services Department, Income Support Division office at 4330 Cutler NE, had its “windows shattered by rocks and bullets,” according to a statement released Monday by HSD.
As a result of the vandalism, which occurred sometime during the weekend of July 25, the office is temporarily shuttered.
Three other Income Support offices in Bernalillo County remain open, though with limited lobby hours of 10 a.m. to noon daily; or for drop-off or curbside service, weekdays, 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. Drop boxes are located outside of each field office and are checked daily.
Those county offices are located at: 1041 Lamberton Place NE; 1711 Randolph SE; and 3280 Bridge SW.
Services are also available at the Income Support Division online portal at www.yes.state.nm.us.