Late last Friday or early Saturday morning, Oct. 15 or 16., one or more people defaced the “Respect & Love Olympia” rainbow mural painted on the former Griswold's building on 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia, a property owned by the city.
They painted over much of the rainbow and stenciled "Patriot Front" lettering on it.
"I got a text about the defacing at 9 a.m., by 10 a.m. I was down there with a volunteer crew restoring the mural. Many people came by to thank us & tell us how much the mural meant to them," Olympia resident Anna Schlecht told The JOLT.
The Rainbow mural was created in 2014 as a community statement against hate crimes happening in Olympia, including several violent attacks outside Jake's, then Olympia's sole gay bar, according to Schlecht.
"The rainbow mural concept came from Dreamy Eyes, the owner of Psychic Sister," according to Schlecht, who is the former chair of Capital City Pride, which raised the funds and secured a muralist to paint the original mural. "It has been a touchstone for the broader community about equality & acceptance," Schlecht added.
During Tuesday's city council meeting, Olympia Mayor Cheryl Shelby spoke against those who defaced the rainbow mural last weekend.
In her statement, the Mayor believed it is best not to discuss the perpetrators. "Their hate is not a story worth sharing," Selby said. The Mayor took the opportunity to recognize those who volunteered to restore the mural, saying "This weekend, we got to see the Olympia community at its best, most kind, and loving self." She added, "I want to talk…how Olympians came together to drown out hate with love, support, and action."
The Mayor said she believed that "an act of hate done in the cover of darkness cannot survive the light of day or the love of our community."
At the city council meeting Schlecht also thanked the community for their support. She also went on to describe the incident as an "act of hate that really struck me to my core." As an artist, she shared, "it’s important to recognize that symbols are powerful.”
Patriot Front is a “a white nationalist hate group that broke off from Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Restored and removed
The mural has now been replaced with plywood boards painted a solid color, to protect the building until the city’s planned redevelopment work begins.
"After consulting with the local anti-hate crime organization, Unity in the Community, we removed the rainbow mural panels yesterday to protect them from future attacks,” Schlecht said. “We look forward to a time and place when they can be reinstalled as a statement of our community's belief in equality, diversity and inclusion,” she said.
CORRECTION: Oct. 25, 2021 -- We removed the words "right-wing extremists" from the first paragraph because there was no source to confirm who committed the act. We regret this error in reporting.
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