New York City subway riders remove anti-Semitic graffiti.
New York City subway riders remove anti-Semitic graffiti. ()

Big Law has had its fair share of New York City subway heroes.

There’s the Debevoise & Plimpton partner who saved a man from the tracks, and the Kirkland & Ellis staffer who once did the same.

On Saturday night, Feb. 4, Gregory Locke, an associate at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker in suburban White Plains, New York, entered the annals of subterranean defenders not by jumping alone onto the tracks, but banding together with his fellow straphangers to keep something off of them.

At first, nothing appeared out of the norm as he stepped into the subway to return home from dinner in the Big Apple. But a few seconds after getting onto an uptown bound No. 1 train, Locke noticed Swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti plastered throughout the train car.

“I licked my thumb and tried to wipe it off, thinking it was dry erase marker, but had no luck,” Locke, 27, said in an interview Monday. Then one gentleman on the train mentioned that hand sanitizer would remove the offending ink, which Locke called a rallying cry for the other passengers in the car to set upon the sharpie and help remove the hateful graffiti.

“I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purell,” Locke wrote on his Facebook wall that evening. “Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, neo-Nazi groups have been attempting to “capitalize on an environment of intense racist energy due in no small part to President Donald Trump’s campaign.” In the 10 days that followed the presidential election on Nov. 8, the SPLC recorded about 100 incidents of anti-Semitism, including graffiti, vandalism and intimidation. And since the New Year, there have been almost 50 bomb threats to Jewish community centers in the U.S.

Since sharing his story on Facebook, Locke (pictured right) has received phone calls from several media outlets and dozens of emails from colleagues and friends. Locke, a Georgia native, has been at Wilson Elser since June 2016. Prior to joining the Am Law 100 firm, Locke was an associate at Krieger, Wilansky & Hupart, a personal injury firm in The Bronx, and previously a law clerk with the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of New York.

At a time where political opinions can be ripe with controversy, even within the offices of large firms, it did cross Locke’s mind that sharing his experience on social media could potentially have negative consequences in his professional life, but that wasn’t enough for him to keep his mouth shut, he said.

“Sharing the pictures from the train is more of a happy story than a sad story in the end,” Locke said. “Worrying about repercussions in my own personal life or in my interactions within my professional life would be sort of cowardly.”