Black Lives Matter mural vandalized

Painted over to say "ALL LIVES MATTER"

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Oak Park's Black Lives Matter street mural on Scoville Avenue was defaced during the night of Tuesday, July 7 by unknown vandals who painted over certain letters to make the mural read, "ALL LIVES MATTER." 

"It's disheartening to wake up to this," said Cullen Benson, who conceived the idea for the mural and organized its execution with Cortlyn Kelly and Franka Del Santo.

Crews from the Oak Park Public Works Department were at the scene early Wednesday morning and have since power washed most of the damage away. What can't be removed will be repainted as soon as possible. 

The Oak Park Police Department is investigating the incident, Oak Park spokesman David Powers confirmed.

"Police are actively investigating the incident and will release more details as they become available," Powers told Wednesday Journal.

According to Benson, police are checking nearby security cameras to see if the footage contains any shots of the vandals. 

Groups of volunteers helped paint the brightly colored "BLACK LIVES MATTER" message, which was completed and unveiled at the end of last month. The Oak Park Area Arts Council funded the project.

The vandals painted over the "B" and "L" in "BLACK," making the two letters blend in with the surrounding dark asphalt. The "C" and "K" were also covered with black paint. In their place, the vandals painted in white "LL."

"They had this planned out by painting over letters to create the word 'ALL' out of 'BLACK,'" said Benson.

The phrase "all lives matter" is commonly used as a refutation and criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, but many believe the phrase dismisses racial inequity and systemic racism in American society.

The act of vandalism did not shock Benson or the other organizers. They had expected it might happen, but it still disappointed them.

"We all know that this is the world that we live in," he said. "We hoped that someplace like Oak Park wasn't subject to something like this, but it was always something that we had to consider."

Some of the unwanted additions to the mural did surprise Benson, however.

"On each letter they put a little smiley face, which is quite weird," he said. "They put on a couple of letters 'love you.'" 

Benson's mother Mak Flournoy took to Facebook to express her own sadness that the mural her son and others helped to create was damaged.

"Their Black Lives Matter mural was a gift to Oak Park and yet last night, someone decided that they needed to take their hate fueled time, to deface it," Flournoy wrote.

Flournoy also wrote she was angry that she had to explain to Benson's ten-year-old sister "why it is that Black people, Blackness, and Black beauty continue to be erased from history."

A similar instance of vandalism occurred in Montez, California, when a man and a woman were caught on camera painting over a Black Lives Matter mural July 4; the two now face hate crime charges. 

The vandalism of Oak Park's mural has saddened and angered many people in the community. To show support for both the mural and its message, plans to gather at the mural, which sits on Scoville between Lake Street and North Boulevard, Wednesday evening have spread on social media. 

The Oak Park village board of trustees recently committed to protecting the mural. On July 6, before the vandalism occurred, the board passed a motion directing village staff to prepare actions to preserve and protect the mural should it be vandalized.

Benson expects it will only cost a few hundred dollars to fix the damage. The mural, he believes, will be restored to its original state, if not a grander one. 

He also believes the injury the mural sustained adds a new layer to the wider story.

"It's just another piece to the story and the history behind the movement," he said. "It shows that this is still very much a country divided."

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Reader Comments

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 2:26 PM

Yes, Ms. Lopez. Now go back to your Ayn Rand.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 11:40 AM

@ Mr. Dwyer. I think you should brush up on your reading comprehension skills Mr. Dwyer. I never condoned the defamation of the BLM mural, nor did I condone circumventing a process to remove said murals. As BLM supporters take matters into their own hands around the country circumventing legally elected officials to remove statues, loot, destroy public property, etc. , they shouldn't be the least bit surprised this happened.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 10th, 2020 10:37 AM

Once again, there's that need to point out the obvious for you, Ramona. The decision by a duly elected board to take down a mural, whether you or I agree with it or not, is a legal action. A lone individual or individuals vandalizing public art is a criminal action. To try and nail that down for you, Ms. Lopez, taking a legal action does NOT "open the door" for an illegal action. I've no idea of you support the "defamation" of public art, but your logic is flawed.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 10:03 PM

@ Comrade Smith. And here I thought Ayn Rand would have been a better comparison the whole time Jeffrey. The BLM leadership are not shy when telling the world they are Marxist. So I guess you would be OK hiring a convicted terrorist. I guess its more palatable if his/her ideology is the same. If you stopped watching MSNBC for a night and took a look at AP, Reuters, BBC, The Guardian or another outlet that doesn't have an axe to grind, you may actually learn something. But please, continue to take your knee for the cause Jeffrey. Communism has a horrific history and clearly you support it. Countries like North Korea, Cuba, China, Vietnam, etc. have lots of walls Jeffrey. It's not to keep people out, its to keep people in. They don't call it The Peoples Republic of Oak Park for nothing.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 9:54 PM

@ Mr. Dwyer. Please demonstrate to me how I support the defamation of the black lives matter painting. The point I was making is that anything that is considered "offensive" now the village, school, etc. needs to take down. Or are our elected officials now picking winners and losers?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 5:08 PM

Really, Ramona? Stating the obvious, (though not, apparently, to you) the decisions to remove several supposedly offensive murals in recent years, right or wrong - and I didn't agree them, btw- were made by elected and legally empowered boards. The BLM logo defacement was simply vandalism, which is a crime.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 4:41 PM

Also: does Oak Park have an official chapter of the KKK, or is it this smarmy, Betty Crockered, commie obsessed, vanilla coated, Phyllis Schlafley flavored, poisoned fruitcake version?

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 4:37 PM

Racists are so tiresome. And yet, here they all are again looking for any way at all to complain about what they most fear: their inevitable relegation to the ash heap of history.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 4:26 PM

@Nancy Soro: One person's moral statement is another's feeling preached down to and a slogan. Who's right? No one, and certainly it is not in the Village's power to decide.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 3:44 PM

@Nancy. Whether its a campaign slogan or a non partisan statement is irrelevant. It may be a campaign slogan to some and not others. It may be non partisan to you, but not others. Ultimately, its a matter of freedom of speech. Once the village allows BLM to be painted on a public street, they now must allow anything anyone wants to be painted on a public street.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 3:31 PM

Once the mural depicting white children ice skating was taken down because it was "offensive", you just opened the door for anything deemed "offensive" by anyone to be removed on public property in Oak Park.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 3:25 PM

Susan Rosenburg, a member of the May 19th Communist Organization was convicted in her role for bombing the U.S. Capital in 1983. She was sentenced to 58 years, but President Clinton commuted her sentence. Today, she heads fundraising for the Black Lives Matter organization. After her release, like her male counterpart Bill Ayres, she had no problem finding employment in academia. Clearly, BLM, President Obama, UIC, etc. have no qualms about associating with domestic terrorists. Speaks volumes to their integrity, morals and true intentions.

Nancy Soro  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 2:43 PM

Re Kevin's comment: Because Make America Great is a campaign slogan and Black Lives Matters is not a partisan statement. It is a simple declaration that is necessary because Black lives have been, and are currently, treated as though they matter less than other lives. No matter what you believe about other issues or who you vote for, believing Black lives matter is consistent with your other beliefs, unless you support white supremacy.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 12:45 PM

Watch for a Federal Court suit on allowing this in the first place. If a Black Lives Matter street mural can be had on Village property, why not a Make America Great Again one? Why should any of this be allowed and people forced to listen to someone else's mantra?

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 9:19 AM

Vandalism is wrong wherever it occurs. I think the Black Lives Matter movement raises issues that should be addressed. When I hear about black people being pulled over without strong probably cause, it makes me sick. That shouldn't happen. I do, however, hope that all good people reject the Black Lives Matter Organization, because in my view, it is a terrorist organization, seeking the overthrow of the government by any means necessary. In this country, we change things with our vote, not violence.

Chris Weiler  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 12:47 AM

As we live in a "versus" culture... your team versus mine, your politics versus mine, your religion versus mine, your race versus mine... it's understandable that topics and dialogue about race reflexively make some people feel divisive and defensive, conditioning them to see equity/equality through a lens of scarcity. Straight up hatred/bigotry/racism and agitators like Timothy notwithstanding, some people relate to equality as if it were a pizza... a finite resource. When someone takes a slice, some get a little nervous and feel there is less available for them. IMO this is why it is vital more conversation include and center around how we conduct ourselves as human beings. How to better value, tolerate and communicate with other human beings. Conversations that directly start and end with race will not disarm and lower the inhibitions of those who have a hard time seeing the distinction between ALM and BLM or that there will be enough pizza to go around. Building bridges with conversations that center around fundamental values and principles all reasonable people can agree on, such as the simplicity of The Golden Rule, highlights and reinforces our common core elements, and are how we begin to dissolve the barriers that divide hearts and minds. Establishing these bridges will make it much easier to drive the race conversation across and have it received as intended by those on the "other side."

Catherine Elise Baldwin-Sommers from Oak Park  

Posted: July 9th, 2020 12:26 AM

How are we supposed to overcome our racism as a community when our own Post Office displays racist murals for all to see?

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: July 8th, 2020 10:22 PM

Well said Janet

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2020 8:05 PM

There will always be the Timothys of the world. But for those of us who are supportive, the best photo and comment I have seen are on my Facebook page. There is handsome young Black man who looks worried, and the commentary, spread across the photo says: WE SAID Black Lives Matter NEVER SAID Only Black Lives Matter WE KNOW All Lives Matter We Just Need Your Help With #BlackLivesMatter For Black Lives Are in Danger. Amen to that. Back to the beach for you, Timothy!

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 8th, 2020 7:00 PM

Ahhh, "Timothy... yet another inbred hillbilly heard from."

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