Police in Martinez, California, said Sunday that they were seeking two white people who were seen vandalizing a Black Lives Matter mural less than an hour after it was painted in front of a local courthouse on Saturday.
“The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner,” Chief Manjit Sappal of the Martinez Police Department said in a statement. “The city of Martinez values tolerance, and the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful.”
Videos posted on social media show a white woman using a roller with black paint to cover the letters B and L in “Black Lives Matter,” while a white man records onlookers yelling for them to stop.
The mural, in yellow paint in the middle of a city street, spelled out “Black Lives Matter” in capital letters.
The man, who can be seen in a video wearing a red cap and a red shirt that reads “Trump” and “Four More Years,” can be heard saying: “We’re sick of this narrative” and “The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism. It’s a lie. It’s a lie.”
The man was also recorded going to a car parked nearby to retrieve a can of black paint.
The woman, using two expletives, tells onlookers to “keep this” in New York, adding, “This is not happening in my town.”
At one point, the man in the red shirt tells onlookers: “Keep America great again, that’s right. Why don’t you guys learn about history, the Emancipation Proclamation Act?” and “You’re only free because of our forefathers.”
A woman can be heard off-camera telling the man he is not “from America” and that he is a “colonizer.”
“Your ancestors aren’t from here,” she says.
“You don’t know nothing,” the man in the red shirt replies.
That woman eventually takes the can of black paint from them.
The relationship between the two people who were seen defacing the mural was unknown, and it was unclear what charges they could face. Police officials were not immediately available to comment Sunday night.
Justin Gomez, a local resident who got permission from the city to paint the mural, said of the vandalism on Sunday: “I’m not so surprised that it happened. I’m surprised at how bold they chose to be.”
The mural was painted on a one-block stretch of Court Street in Martinez, which is about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco. The city selected the location after Gomez, the lead organizer for Martizians for Black Lives, asked the city for permission to paint the message, he said.
“We asked to do it on our city’s main street,” Gomez said. The city, he said, offered the street in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse instead.
“We immediately agreed to it,” he said, “and I feel it was a more powerful statement than what we had initially proposed.”
Gomez and local residents started painting the mural at 7 a.m. Saturday; by 2:30 p.m., with the paint still drying, he left.
By 3 p.m., Gomez said, he received messages saying the mural was being vandalized.
Gomez said that the mural had since been restored and that supporters were “maintaining a presence” to prevent further damage.
Similar murals have been painted in cities across the country, including Washington, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles.