Beverly man faces hate crime charges over anti-LGBTQ graffiti in Salem

Local News

Mohammed Saeed Rajab, 25, allegedly defaced multiple Pride-themed displays throughout the city, including the rainbow doors at Tabernacle Congregational Church.

A Beverly man is facing hate crime charges in connection to a series of anti-LGBTQIA+ graffiti and vandalism in Salem earlier this month.

Salem police arrested Mohammed Saeed Rajab, 25, after an investigation into the graffiti, which was found on Sept. 13 throughout the city. Rajab is charged with hate crimes, destruction of a place of worship, and multiple other vandalism charges, according to the Essex District Attorney’s office.

Investigators said the rainbow-colored doors at the Tabernacle Congregational Church and a Pride flag at a Salem animal shelter were defaced with anti-LGBTQIA+ graffiti, and a Pride flag at Lappin Park was torn down. Several Pride-themed crosswalks were also defaced with paint, police said. The graffiti on the church doors read, “Cancel LGBTQ 2024.”

Salem police said investigators from the Beverly Police Department assisted in identifying Rajab as the suspect. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment in Salem District Court on Wednesday, according to The Boston Globe.

A judge ordered him held on $2,500 bail and to surrender his passport. Rajab was also ordered to stay away from Salem, adhere to a GPS curfew, and not possess firearms or any dangerous weapons, according to the news outlet. He is due back in court on Oct. 11 for a pretrial hearing.

Public and church officials denounced the vandalism, with Mayor Dominick Pangallo saying it was “contrary to who we are and to our city’s values” and that he stood with members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Tabernacle Congregational Church released a statement saying, “This hateful act will not deter us from proclaiming God’s love to all people. The doors will be repainted and back up declaring what we believe: ‘Loves Wins.’”

Following Rajab’s arrest, Salem Chief Lucas Miller praised the work of investigators.

“We have made this investigation our highest priority,” Miller said in a news release. “I realize that this arrest does not erase the harm caused by Mr. Rajab, but I hope that it shows the commitment that the Salem Police Department has to our friends, our neighbors, and our colleagues in the LGBTQ community.”