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30 Jul, 2015 01:42

#BlackLivesMatter, Sandra Bland murals defaced with racial slurs

#BlackLivesMatter, Sandra Bland murals defaced with racial slurs

A mural painted as a memorial to activist Sandra Bland after her death in police custody was defaced with the slogan “All lives matter.” The tribute replaced a previous mural that read “Black lives matter,” which was vandalized with the same slogan.

READ MORE: ‘What happened in that jail?’ FBI to probe death of black activist found hanging in Texas cell

The memorial in Ottawa, Canada was defaced less than a day after it was painted, CBC News reported. Artists Kalkidan Assefa and Allan André painted the mural in tribute to Bland, whose death in a Texas jail cell was ruled suicide by hanging, a ruling her family disputes.

“I really wanted it to be a celebration of her life and her spirit,” André said.

The two men painted a portrait of Bland with her name next to the image on a public graffiti wall.

Bland’s face was defaced with a mustache and racial slurs, while her name was painted over with the words “All lives matter.”

Part of the reason that Assefa and André create their portrait was to replace a minimalist “Black lives matter” mural that had been vandalized in the same way on the same wall.

“My understanding is there was a certain sense of [territory] with this wall,” Assefa told CBC News. “The longtime artists and writers that come here felt that maybe people should have asked them for permission or asked to collaborate in order to get the message out rather than take the space up.”

“But it is a public wall, so it’s kind of up in debate.”

Cassandra Dickie, the graffiti and visual arts coordinator with the Ottawa House of Paint group, disagreed with Assefa’s assessment, however. She said the people who tagged the mural were not part of the city’s graffiti artists.

“The reaction by everyone I know and I’m in contact with ‒ and I know almost everyone in the city that writes graffiti ‒ was absolute outrage,” Dickie told CBC News. “We do not support this kind of disrespectful act.”

She noted that there are unwritten rules within the graffiti community to respect artists who previously painted on a wall.

The woman who discovered the defacement expressed dismay over the disrespect displayed by the vandals.

“It’s something bigger than I am and it’s also something that directly affects me as a black woman, and I just feel protective over it and the people who did it, and her spirit,” Carling Miller told CBC News. “So it was incredibly painful to see that that is the response that the mural got, that it wasn’t just covered over, that someone intentionally was trying to destroy [the mural] and hurt the people who created the mural. And I think it was a blatant attack on black folks just in general.”

The Black Lives Matter Coalition fixed Bland’s portrait hours after Miller noticed the damage. She and a friend kept watch on the mural until the artists could restore Bland’s image, she said.

“The Black Lives Matter – Ottawa Coalition will NOT accept this as a reality of our city’s treatment of the importance of Black lives and will continue to take a stance against such racist actions. ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter,” the group wrote on Facebook.

Update On The #SandraBland Mural:Around 3:30 a.m. the Sandra Bland mural by Allan André and Kalkidan Assefa, in...

Posted by Black Lives Matter - Ottawa Coalition on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Activists contend that replacing “black lives matter” with “all lives matter” is an attempt to play down the systemic racism African-Americans face in the US and the fear that blacks face when dealing with police.

“[T]he phrase ‘black lives matter’ also has an implicit ‘too’ at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying ‘all lives matter’ is willfully going back to ignoring the problem,” Redditor GeekAesthete wrote (emphasis original).

“It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means ‘only black lives matter’, when that is obviously not the case,” the post continued. “And so saying ‘all lives matter’ as a direct response to ‘black lives matter’ is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.”