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Anti-wealth graffiti rattles rich enclave

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 | 11:21 AM ET
Anti-wealth sentiment rears ugly head in wealthy California town
Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 | 1:00 PM ET
CNBC's Robert Frank talks about the anti-wealth graffiti that occurred in the posh town of Atherton, California, and why this will become a very big deal.

The Occupy movement seems to have moved West.

After a wave of anti-wealth protests in San Francisco, the nearby, posh town of Atherton, Calif., is having its brush with populism.

The Atherton Police Department said it's investigating graffiti that was spay-painted on vehicles, garage doors, fences and gates in the town's Lindenwood neighborhood. Atherton is one of the richest towns in California, with manicured lawns, sprawling mansions and billionaire residents that have included Charles Schwab, Eric Schmidt and Meg Whitman.

The Atherton Police said the vandalism occurred early in the evening on Sunday, Feb. 16, and included "anti-wealth" phrases like "F--- the 1 percent."

(Read more: Wealthy's worry: Don't hate me because I'm rich)

The graffiti may just be another case of a few kids making mischief, but because of the heated political climate over wealth, and rising class tensions in San Francisco, the police informed the FBI.

The bureau commonly tracks activist movements like Occupy Wall Street. Atherton Town Manager George Rodericks said that because the language in the graffiti is "similar to the Occupy folks," the town wanted to alert the FBI.

"The nature of the graffiti was the 1 percent issue," Rodericks said. "So they wanted to alert the FBI."

Graffiti targeting the wealthy in the Silicon Valley town of Atherton is seen a residential garage door.
Source: Town of Atherton
Graffiti targeting the wealthy in the Silicon Valley town of Atherton is seen a residential garage door.

The FBI declined to comment to CNBC, citing its policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

The Atherton Police advised locals to "keep your property gates closed, your house doors and windows secured, your exterior lights on during hours of darkness, and your vehicles locked with no valuables kept inside the passenger compartment. Also, make sure to use your home security system on a regular basis. "

(Read more: The poor should stop whining, says luxury CEO)

The vandalism follows a controversial letter in The Wall Street Journal last month by San Francisco venture capitalist Tom Perkins, saying that the American wealthy are being persecuted like the German Jews were before World War II.

Perkins later apologized for the comment, but it brought into sharp focus growing tensions in the Bay Area over rising tech wealth and its impact on the community.

(Read more: Five tycoons who mind the gap)

Rodericks said people in Atherton are generally not worried about the graffiti issue, since Atherton is one of the safest towns in America. But he said he hoped Athertonians would maintain their level of vigilance.

"We would hope our residents are at that (high) level of awareness every day," he said.

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

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