YPSILANTI, Mich. – The Black Lives Matter mural in Riverside Park was defaced in the early hours of Sunday morning with large amounts of white paint.
The damage was tagged by the white supremacist group Patriot Front, which is a racist, anti-Semitic movement that split from Vanguard America. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Vanguard had a large presence at the deadly “Unite the Right” alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
The mural was one of two 260-foot murals painted by members of the community earlier this year, which were were unveiled to the public on Juneteenth. Over the weekend of June 4-5, roughly 80 volunteers worked on the project, led by community organizer and activist Trische’ Duckworth.
“The damage speaks for itself on the amount of hatred they had to produce something like that,” said Duckworth, who said the paint covering the mural was still wet when she arrived at the scene on Sunday morning between 9-10 a.m.
As for restoring the mural, she said plans are already in the works.
“This group may have paint, but we have more paint,” said Duckworth. “This group doesn’t have what we have -- we have love, community and togetherness and that’s what’s going to get us through.”
Duckworth said the incident was reported to law enforcement, and that there are no known cameras in the area. She said community members have since reached out offering to donate cameras to monitor the mural from now on.
When asked if she was shocked by the hate crime, she said several of the distinct yellow Black Lives Matter murals have already been defaced around the country.
“Before we even did this we knew it was a possibility,” she said. “What shocked me is they didn’t to it sooner, to be honest. This is the America that we live in right now.
“This actually shows just how much a state of an emergency that we are in as a community and it’s my hope that everybody will get all hands on deck to fight for racial equity in America because this shows that we have a lot of work today.”
At one point during the interview, Duckworth became emotional.
“Good people are surfacing,” she said, her voice shaking. “We cried together and we embraced each other yesterday … Actually I’m kind of scared, and I don’t get scared often. I’m very alarmed at what could happen. They were very intentional to only blot out ‘Black Lives’ and not ‘Matter.’”
While Ypsilanti’s mayor Lois Richardson proposed painting over the damage on Sunday night, Duckworth said she would first like to consult the mayor and City Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday night before moving forward.
“Let’s slow down and craft a thoughtful response to this that includes the community,” she said.