By SABINA IDRIZ
Three murals on East Grand Avenue were found defaced with racist graffiti on Oct. 16. An investigation is still ongoing regarding this vandalism, and if the perpetrator of this vandalism is identified, they will likely face felony criminal mischief charges. Detectives have surveillance footage from a nearby business store that shows a suspect.
One of the murals initially cost around $8,000. The Community Housing Initiatives, a nonprofit organization, is fundraising for the complete restoration of the murals and intends to cover them with a protective anti-graffiti clear coat.
The Community Housing Initiatives originally commissioned the murals, which were created by artists from Florida and Arizona.
Included among the graffiti were two nooses which were painted over on Oct. 19, along with what appear to be white supremacist symbols. This racist imagery surprised some students.
“I think Des Moines, and Iowa in general, is just a very tolerant community,” said Sam Veytsman, a sophomore and President of Students Supporting Israel. “You don’t really hear a lot about issues such as hate speech or crime in general. Coming from Chicago, it’s a lot different.”
Sophomore David Atri is vice president of the Students Supporting Israel organization and co-founded it with Veytsman. Atri said an expression of racism like this should be discouraged rather than brushed off.
“Of course there’s free speech and freedom of opinions, but to go out and vandalize with the purpose of letting people know what you think is aggressive and hateful towards others, it doesn’t lead to any dialogue,” Atri said. “It doesn’t lead to any particular freedom of speech rights being exercised in the way they were meant to be but it gives us an opportunity to show how we react to it … the reaction to these small-ish incidents is very important. It’s one of the earlier stages of hatred but how we stop it at the source is very important, because if we don’t then it continues.”
Those wishing to contribute a donation for the restoration of these murals can search for “Third Space Mural Program Repairs” on the website GoFundMe. Within four days, $6,823 was raised with contributions from 144 people. The goal is $8,500.
“Any additional funding that we raise in this process will go toward the production of additional murals throughout the community,” states the description of the GoFundMe created by Brian Bonanno, community development director for the Community Housing Initiatives and mural curator. “While we cannot always protect from hate, we will continue to do our best to curate art that is reflective of the diverse people that make up our community and ensure that they feel welcome and safe in the places they live. If they attack our murals with these kinds of sentiments then we will rally our community, we will fix them and then we put up an additional mural.”
The vandalism is but a setback for these artists because the people of Des Moines and elsewhere are donating to repair their artworks and put additional pieces up. Many believe that standing up to this vandalism will make it clear that the community values diversity and equality, and will not sit back and accept such acts of bigotry.
“Hate has no home in Iowa,” Veytsman said. “It’s important for us as a Drake community to stand up for everybody. I feel like Drake is a very open and welcoming community.”
PHOTO OF DEFACED MURALS | PHOTO BY DANIEL HELMEE