MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Authorities intensified their search Sunday for a man and woman who defaced the “Black Lives Matter” mural painted on a downtown Martinez street.
The Martinez police released links to YouTube videos of the vandalism incident and released a photo and description of their truck.
The vehicle was a Nissan pickup truck with the word “NICOLE” on the right side of the tailgate in silver lettering. The truck has a camper shell and the license plate is 52701B1.
According to a release from police chief Chief Manjit Sappal office, community members had obtained a permit from the city to paint “Black Lives Matter” on Court Street in downtown on July 4.
“The community spent a considerable amount of time painting this mural only to have the suspects destroy it by dumping and rolling paint over part of the message,” the release said.
Investigators said once the street mural was complete, community organizers left the area. It was then that an unidentified white male and white female arrived.
While the male made comments to a group of onlookers his companion began painting over the mural’s yellow letters with black paint. At one point she made a statement that this was not “happening in my town.”
She also asked the male to get her another can of paint to continue with the act of vandalism. It appeared that the couple came to the mural with several cans of paint and a roller with the specific purpose of vandalizing the mural.
The police were called but by the time they arrived, the suspects were gone. A witness provided them with a photograph of the suspect’s vehicle.
The case is currently under investigation and if any members of the public can identify the male and female involved in this incident please call our Dispatch Center at 925-372-3440 with the information.
“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 release said. “The city of Martinez values tolerance and the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful. Please help us identify those that are responsible for this crime, so they can be held accountable for their actions.”
“What happened yesterday to deface that mural was hostility in an ugly form,” city councilwoman Noralea Gipner said Sunday morning on social media. “Permission was given to put that there but permission was not given to deface it.”
More than 100 people — all wearing masks and almost all showing concern for social distancing — had helped paint the words over a five-hour period Saturday. This “public art project” was organized by the local group Martizians for Black Lives, which asked the city of Martinez Recreation Department for permission to paint the mural.
Justin Gomez of Martinez, a lead facilitator for Martizians for Black Lives, said the project came together quickly. It was spurred not only by the similar murals in other cities but by the discovery by two people June 28 of anti-Black Lives Matter fliers about a half-block apart on a residential sidewalk near downtown Martinez. Those fliers ignited a community-wide discussion of how people are treated.
“People have now seen racism in their community; now we have to confront it,” Gomez said as dozens of people used rollers to apply yellow paint to the street in front of the Justice Wakefield Taylor Courthouse a few feet away.
Rachel Deikman, a Martinez resident, agreed. “Black lives are marginalized and there needs to be a difference made,” she said. “And now’s the time.”
It was no accident the big yellow letters “Black Lives Matters” were applied in front of a courthouse, Gomez said. He said the legal system is a “gateway to mass incarceration” that has disproportionately made Black people and other people of color victims, and has helped perpetuate institutional racism.
“The ‘system’ is made up of millions of little systems,” Gomez said. “We have to look locally first.”
He said he has been heartened by the swift denunciation of the racist fliers by local elected and civic leaders. One of those leaders was city councilman Mark Ross.
“Our town will not be deterred and such hateful acts will only coalesce us as the kind and forward leaning community we are,” Ross wrote on social media the day after the fliers were reported.
Getting the street mural approved so quickly, Gomez said, is further proof the city is committed to addressing the issue.
As of Sunday afternoon, the one block of Court Street was still blocked off, the mural intact, now surrounded by dozens of chalk images.
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