Officials at Washington University reported a mural on campus depicting important Black people was destroyed with racist symbols this weekend. Still, the mural’s creators claim that this isn’t the first time the piece has been vandalized.
The civil rights activist and former United States Senator are depicted in the picture. According to the school’s student newspaper, Rep. John Lewis and actor Chadwick Boseman, who died last summer and was most known for his iconic superhero role in “Black Panther,” were honored.
Chancellor Andrew Martin and four other top administrators at the institution in St. Louis wrote a letter to students and staff about the vandalism on Sunday.
“This is horrifying and distressing. We’re shocked and saddened by this hateful act on our campus,” they wrote in the letter.
Officials from the university stated there are cameras near a mural painted on the side of a pedestrian tunnel that connects numerous dorms to the rest of campus. The incident is being investigated by the Washington University Police Department. A school representative told NBC BLK that there are no additional updates on the probe, but that the school hopes investigators will be able to identify the persons who destroyed the painting.
Several of the faces on the mural were painted white and stamped with emblems associated with a white supremacist hate group that was participating in the 2017 “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The school stated that it did not furnish the publication with the information and that it could not confirm it.
Students were swift to delete the offensive remarks, according to the university.
“As soon as we learned of this incident, we began to mobilize to remove the white supremacist name and symbols from the mural and found that students had already worked quickly to cover them,” the university said.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the mural, titled “The Story That Never Ends,” was painted by local artists before the start of autumn school in 2020 in the aftermath of the police shootings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The artwork, which was created during a period of racial reckoning in the United States, aims to bring attention to concerns of racial inequality.
De’Joneiro Jones, 47, of St. Louis, claimed he drove to the mural’s location as soon as he heard it had been vandalized. When he came, a Black female cop wept as she remembered the racial imagery on the painting, he added.
“She was in tears, telling me the defacement that was there before some of the university students went to their dorms and got fingernail polish remover and removed the actual text that was there,” he said.
This isn’t the only time the mural has been vandalized. Last year, as the artists were painting the mural, vandals wrote the N-word and “pig” on the sidewalk, according to Jones.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “We’d have to go get something to eat and come back and we had to leave the paint out there. So we would come back and somebody’s done spray painted nasty, nasty, awful things.”
The university condemned the act of racism and stated that it stands with students of color.
“Let us say again, so there is absolutely no room for doubt: Washington University stands unequivocally against hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination in any form,” it said in a statement. “There is no place on our campus for these behaviors and this type of harmful action will not be tolerated or ignored.”