Damage to Black Lives Matter Street Murals: Accident or Vandalism?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

In September and August of 2020, as part of  peaceful protests in response to police brutality, artists took to the streets. All over the country, beautiful murals bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” were seen all around city streets. Unfortunately, on Oct. 18–not even 24 hours after a mural in Nashville was painted–it was discovered with black tire tracks and white paint splotches destroying the artwork. It is an unfortunate and disappointing event for the artists who spent so much time making the lovely artwork, and it is unclear what the next course of action should be.

This is not the first time murals supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement have been damaged. In cities such as Kansas City and Indianapolis, there have been similar reports of paint and tire tracks. Shortly after the mural in Indianapolis was painted on Aug. 1, Rebecca Robinson, the artist who painted the “L,” awoke to an email from an unknown sender. The message was simply, “It’s starting already.” Later that day, according to the Indianapolis Star, the damage to the murals was discovered. This damage was reported to police; however, without firm evidence, law enforcement could do nothing. The same was said for the mural in Nashville, Tennessee, which was damaged not even 24 hours after its completion . There were black tracks from large car tires that, according to  wsmv.com, appeared as though drivers purposely drove in circles over the paint. As with Indianapolis, reports were made to the Mayor’s office, but once again there was not enough evidence to rule it as intentional vandalism. Sgt. Jake Becchina of the Kansas City police department, said whether or not there is criminal intent is unclear.

With all this uncertainty and ambiguity from those in authority, citizens are left to draw their own conclusions, and public opinion seems to be swaying towards the idea that this damage was intentional. Harold Smith, one of the artists of the Kansas City mural that was damaged, said in a written statement, reported by Anna Spoerre of kansas.com that, “By vandalizing one of these murals … a message has been sent that, to some, black lives do not matter and some people are willing to resort to illegal, inhumane, and outright cruel means to send that message.” Brenda Ross, one of the organizers for the Nashville murals told wsmtv.com, “It’s a little disheartening but living in Nashville and knowing some of our neighbors, I’m not very shocked that it happened.”

As of now, it does not seem that there will be much action in terms of moving forward. Becchina claims that if more evidence is found, then legal processes will be pursued against the guilty parties, but who is to say if this will happen? The best thing for the country to do is to wait and see, but after so many murals have been damaged in such similar ways, can it really be said that it was an accident? If it was not, are the people of America willing to continue waiting and watching while peaceful protests against violence are defaced?

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