The pettiness of racist graffiti can be gnawing. Its results can be nerve racking.
Mica Contreras, Justice and Equity Program organizer for Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), has, along with others, seen what they believe is an increase in graffiti vandalism directed at people of color and organizations that exist to assist them.
This has included a recent case of a spray-painted noose with the n-word accompanying it on a car in the Santa Clara area.
“Hate crimes can escalate in a community when they are not met with strong resistance,” Contreras tells Eugene Weekly.
Graffiti vandalism hit CALC in the last week of February when it struck a youth mural, “The People’s Resistance,” in front of the CALC building.
The vandalism on the mural took the form of scrawling thick black Xs across the faces of Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and a portrait of an Asian woman. Additionally, one piece in the mural’s upper left corner has been covered with paper and is now weathered into the mural, making it difficult to peel off.
The Eugene Police Department was called on Feb. 23, but the staff at CALC say that EPD officers didn’t show up until Feb. 26, and the investigation seems to be getting nowhere.
CALC had seen enough, so it called a media event on March 4 in front of the mural to shine attention on this stealth immorality.
Contreras read from a statement declaring, in part, “that these attacks were intended to intimidate all BIPOC and organizations committed to working for justice, especially those in the Black community.”
“Although I don’t think we should give these incidents more attention than they deserve, I think it’s important to recognize that we live in a historically racist ‘whites only’ state that supports many extremist hate groups, including white nationalists who are actively recruiting our youth,” Contreras says to EW. “When multiple incidents occur in rapid succession in the same area, it is important to rally the community and raise awareness on these issues.”
Community leaders from an array of nonprofits gathered to join CALC and speak against the racist vandalism in Eugene.
Among them were three young people affiliated with City Wide Union de Activistas, a youth organization inside CALC that created the mural, dedicated in 2016. The three — Samantha Alcantar, Abril Meja-Garcia and Carlos Garcia — spoke of the pain and violation associated with the defacing.
Alcantar noted “it sickens me” that she and her friends had to be in front of CALC on this day for this purpose, and that the vandalism was an attempt “to belittle efforts of the BIPOC community.”
“We do belong here,” Meja-Garcia answered. “This is our city, too.” She also reminded the gathering that the making of the mural “was a form of self-care for some students.”
Garcia concurred, noting that working on the mural project “helped me find my voice and express my culture.” The vandalism, he added, “makes me feel frustrated and hurt.”
All three said they will be part of the effort, along with a professional muralist, to erase the vandal’s marks and restore “The People’s Resistance” mural.
“In the case of the defacement of the CALC mural, it is important to amplify the voices of the student muralists who spent countless hours putting their heart and soul into the project,” Contreras notes to EW. “We should rally around them and come together as a community to reject intimidation and hate.”
More information about the mission, the programs and volunteer opportunities at CALC, as well as how to donate, can be found at CALCLane.org.