Screenshot via Kerry Leidich/YouTube
A man and woman were filmed on Saturday vandalizing a freshly painted Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez, California.
The pair also said they are “sick of this narrative” of racism and police brutality, adding, “It’s a leftist lie.”
Justin Gomez, who spearheaded the effort to create the mural, said he decided to do so after fliers promoting white supremacy began making the rounds in the Bay Area city.
“I wasn’t surprised that it was vandalized, but I was surprised by how brazen they were,” he said of the vandals.
Police are investigating the case with Chief Manjit Sappal saying that “the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful.”
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Police in Northern California are looking for a man and woman who were captured on camera on Saturday defacing a brand new Black Lives Matter mural.
The mural features “Black Lives Matter” painted in yellow capital letters in the middle of the street outside a courthouse in Martinez.
Footage from the scene showed a woman dumping black paint on “B” and “L” and using a roller to cover the letters. Her companion, a white man clad in a “Make America Great Again” cap and a “Four More Years” T-shirt, had his phone out as he recorded bystanders yelling at them to stop.
When an onlooker asked, “What is wrong with you?” the man replied, “We’re sick of this narrative, that’s what’s wrong. The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism. It’s a lie.”
As of Monday morning, the widely circulated video had accrued over 2 million views on Twitter and reached more than 168,000 people on YouTube and another 560,000-plus people on Instagram.
People filming the incident told the pair that their actions were racist, but the man pointed to the mural itself, saying, “This is racism is what it is. There is no oppression, there is no racism. It’s a leftist lie. It’s a lie from the media.”
Meanwhile, the woman yelled out, “Keep this s— in f—ing New York. This is not happening in my town.” She also told the man to get another can of paint, which he grabbed from their white pickup truck.
Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal released a statement seeking the public’s help in identifying the man and woman, whose relationship is unknown.
Police were called to the scene but the pair was gone by the time officers arrived, the statement said, adding that an investigation is underway so the people “responsible for this crime” can be “held accountable for their actions.”
“The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner. The city of Martinez values tolerance, and the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful,” Sappal said in the statement.
The local Black Lives Matter chapter organized the mural in response to a white supremacist flyer
Justin Gomez, the lead organizer for Martizians for Black Lives, told Insider that the idea for the mural was sparked a week ago when the community stumbled across fliers promoting white supremacy.
It declared that Black Lives Matter was a “terrorist organization” whose followers were going to “kill white people and police officers in the name of justice for the police officers killing n—- thugs in the line of duty.”
It went on to ask white people to come together to protect one another and their children, declaring, “Through unification we will all be protected.”
So, on June 29, Gomez contacted Martinez’s Parks and Recreation Commission and sought permission to paint the mural on the city’s main street. After some back and forth, they agreed on the mural being created outside the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse instead.
Gomez said he agreed to the alternate location because the mural now makes a “more powerful statement” since it is in front of an institution that has perpetuated racism.
Nearly 100 people mobilized at 7 a.m. local time on Saturday and the mural was done by 2 p.m. and Gomez left the site at 2:30 p.m.
‘I was surprised by how brazen they were’
According to Gomez, Martinez is home to “a lot of multi-generational families” and “conservative ideals” that show up in local politics and in the form of bumper stickers and Confederate flags.
As soon as word of the mural got around, Gomez spotted “racist rhetoric in community forums online” in which people threatened to “pressure-wash the mural” because “all lives matter.”
“So I wasn’t surprised that it was vandalized, but I was surprised by how brazen they were,” Gomez told Insider, adding that he expected people to damage the painting in the “cover of darkness,” but was shocked to see that they felt “emboldened and right enough” to do so in broad daylight with people nearby.”
Gomez, who lives near the courthouse in Martinez, heard about the vandalism around 3 p.m. So he returned to the scene and with the help of a crowd that had gathered there touched up the mural by 3:30 p.m. The painting was vandalized less than an hour after the group finished it, but it was also fixed less than an hour after the man and woman attempted to destroy it, he said.
The duo wasn’t “righting some vandals’ wrong,” Gomez added. “They defaced a publicly sanctioned piece of artwork.”
But the tension didn’t end there.
Black Lives Matter supporters decided to stand guard at the mural to ward off any further destruction. On Sunday, a man yelled “All Lives Matter” and pulled a gun on people who were watching over the site, Gomez told Insider, adding that he believes the “All Lives Matter” slogan is a “coded white supremacist statement.
The armed man was arrested, but the incident showed Gomez that the mural is not only a “space for community discourse” but has also put on display “the worst of some people.”
“I did not anticipate such overt displays of violence to come from the community,” Gomez said. “But this is a direct product of the divisive rhetoric coming from the White House.”
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