Vice President Mike Pence rakes leaves while Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (L) picks them up at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri on Wednesday. Vandals toppled nearly 200 headstones on February 20, 2017 in the Jewish cemetery. Pence, who was in town for another event, asked to go to the cemetery for the large community cleanup which attracted over four thousand people. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday condemned vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis during two speeches, one at a Caterpillar plant in Fenton, Mo., and later at the cemetery itself.
Pence picked up a rake and gloves, helping community members at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery clean up hundreds of toppled headstones and defiled graves that were vandalized Monday after denouncing the act as "vile."
The cemetery was vandalized the same day 11 Jewish community centers in seven states received bomb threats -- a fourth wave that brought the number of calls to centers in the last two months to 60 -- drawing loud calls for President Donald Trump's administration to come out more strongly against a rising number of anti-Semitic acts across the United States.
Pence repeated Trump's denunciation of months of anti-Semitic rhetoric and acts increasing in frequency during remarks at a private event at the Caterpiller plant, where he'd been previously scheduled to talk about the economy.
"Monday morning America discovered that nearly 200 tombstones were toppled in a nearby Jewish cemetery. Speaking just yesterday President Trump called this, 'a horrible and painful act.' And so it was. That, along with other recent threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country. He declared it all a sad reminder of hate, prejudice and evil," Pence said in the speech. "We condemn this vile act of vandalism and the people who perpetrated it in the strongest possible terms."
Later, in an unannounced stop at the cemetery with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, Pence put on gloves, grabbed a rake and helped clean up debris spread among about 200 gravestones that had been damaged and knocked over.
"[Missouri]'s people are inspiring the nation w/ their compassion for the Jewish community. Thank you for showing the world what America is all about," Pence tweeted after leaving the cemetery.