Iconic African-American Mural In Los Angeles Defaced With Swastikas, Police Investigate As Hate Crime

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The mural is on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles, showing images of the Black Panthers and other prominent figures on a site that has celebrated decades of black history. On Friday, someone painted swastikas on the mural in an act of vandalism that has roiled the community and attracted national attention. As NBC News reported, vandals targeted the portion of the mural honoring the Black Panther Party, spray-painting swastikas over the faces of several people depicted in the mural.

The 7,880-square-foot mural was compiled by a dozen Los Angeles artists in 2002, the report noted. It had become a point of pride in the community, and many were upset to see it was defaced.

“This wall is our history and it’s a source of pride in our community. It tells our story,” local political strategist and commentator Jasmyne Cannick said in a video posted to Twitter, via NBC News. “It’s just absolutely a travesty. It’s devastating. It is upsetting. We can’t stand for this.”

The mural also depicted historic Civil Rights figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

Police in Los Angeles said they believe the swastikas painted on the African-American mural were an isolated incident, but took place amid increasing acts of anti-Semitism nationwide. As the NBC News report noted, a mural at Duke University honoring the people killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was also defaced with swastikas. And earlier this week, someone painted swastikas in the office of Columbia University professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, a 77-year-old Jew.

“I opened the outer door and almost passed out,” Midlarsky said, via CNN.

Statistics from the FBI give more context to the increase in hate crimes targeting Jewish people and places. According FBI statistics from 2016, there were 684 hate crimes directed toward Jewish individuals reported in 2016, but that rose sharply the next year to 938 incidents.

In Los Angeles, police said they will catch the person who drew swastikas on the African-American memorial mural.

“We fill find you and we will prosecute you,” said LAPD Capt. Alex Baez, via NBC Los Angeles.

Clean-up crews were able to wash away the swastikas painted on the mural, the report noted. Some of the artists who painted the mural also came to do touch-up work to ensure it would be restored in its entirety.