OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) — A Black Lives Matter mural in Oak Park was defaced overnight – painted over to read, “all lives matter.”
As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, the mural debuted on Scoville Avenue in Oak Park with the approval of the village two weeks ago. After what happened overnight, Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said he was “embarrassed, appalled, and saddened,” and added that if he “could apologize to every Black person in the country,” he would do so.
Many hands were involved in the effort to bring the Black Lives Matter message to Oak Park.
“We used road paint, so it was here to stay,” said mural designer Franka Huanchicay.
The mural was made to last, but roughly two weeks after its debut, it was vandalized.
“My mom woke me up this morning around 6:45 and she shows me a Facebook post,” said mural organizer Cortlyn Kelly.
Overnight in the cover of darkness, someone painted over the words, “Black Lives Matter” to say “all lives matter,” adding smiley faces and the words, “I love you,” underneath.
“Half the B was covered in black paint. The entire L was covered in black paint,” Huanchicay said.
As self-identifying artists of color, it felt like a slap in the face for Hunachicay and Kelly.
“Angry, hurt, sad,” Kelly said. “I was not surprised, but it did hurt. To deface our work just tears down our voices.”
The vandalism is a local symptom of ongoing national tension over race in America. Just in the last week, a video out of Martinez, California showed a man and woman painting over a Black Lives Matter mural there.
The man and woman, Nichole Anderson, 42, and David Nelson, 53, have now been charged with three misdemeanor counts, including a hate crime.
Meanwhile in Evanston last Friday, the Evanston Township High School boys’ basketball team painted a massive message of Black Lives Matter in yellow on the street outside their school. On Saturday, the team found streaks of white paint splattered across two of the letters, and the coach for the team, Mike Ellis, believes it was defaced.
“I could be sad about it, but that’s just not the reality of public art,” said Zaria Gilmore, who helped with the Oak Park mural. “Things get defaced.”
Artists know the risk that comes with public art. But the Oak Park artists vow to keep fighting with words as long as it takes.
“If you don’t love Black Lives Matter, you can’t love all lives,” Kelly said.
“All lives can’t matter until Black lives do, until Brown lives do, until LGBTQIA lives do,” Gilmore said.
“If this piece of artwork was purely performative, then why did someone come here and feel compelled to make their statement over it?” Huanchicay said.
Crews with the Village of Oak Park came quick, powering-washing the street. The black paint covering part of the mural quickly washed away, while the mural stayed strong underneath.
“It’s symbolic in that the movement can’t die,” Huanchicay said. “You can paint over a mural and you can say all lives matter, but Black Lives Matter is a true fact and you can’t tear that down.”
There was a rally at Scoville Avenue and Lake Street late Wednesday afternoon to show solidarity for the artists who made the mural and for the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole, followed by a march. Chalk messages of solidarity were also seen around the mural late Wednesday.
Oak Park police said they are investigating, but as for the type of crime and whether it would be a hate crime, they said that would be up to a prosecutor to determine.