Los Angeles police on Friday were trying to determine who painted swastikas on a mural that has been a fixture and a source of pride in the black community for decades.
The mural on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles depicts the Blank Panthers and major African-American figures on a wall that has been the site of art work celebrating black history since the 1970s. The LAPD said it was investigating Thursday's vandalism as a hate crime.
In 2002, a dozen local artists completed the 7,880 square foot “Our Mighty Contribution” mural to commemorate black history, including images of Martin Luther King, Jr., slavery, Louis Armstrong, and Harriet Tubman.
Vandals defaced the section of the mural devoted to the Black Panther Party, spray-painting swastikas over the faces of individuals.
“This wall is our history and it’s a source of pride in our community. It tells our story,” said local political strategist and commentator Jasmyne Cannick in a video posted on Twitter. “It’s just absolutely a travesty. It’s devastating. It is upsetting. We can’t stand for this.”
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Enkone, the artist who originally painted the Black Panther portion of the mural, immediately went to the wall and removed the Nazi symbols by Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a shame because we did this mural for everybody,” Enkone told KNBC.
When Cannick learned about the swastikas Thursday morning, she went to see the vandalism for herself. While there, she reported the incident to police and alerted the Anti-Defamation League. In a tweet responding to Cannick, the ADL of Los Angeles called it a “heinous act of hate” and said it was in contact with law enforcement.
Investigators are looking for witnesses and possible security camera images, Los Angeles Police Department officials told KNBC.
“We will find you and we will prosecute you,” LAPD Capt. Alex Baez said.
Police said they believe the vandalism is an isolated incident.
The mural defacement follows recent Nazi vandalism in other parts of the country. New York City Police opened their own hate-crimes investigation Thursday after swastikas were spray-painted on the office walls of a Columbia University professor who identifies as Jewish and has written books about the Holocaust.
Earlier this month, a mural at Duke University honoring the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was defaced with the Nazi symbol.
“It seems to be randomly happening all over the place," Cannick said. "I think this particular incident, it really hit people because [the mural] is so well known. It’s really loved and adored and appreciated by so many people.
“I want to know who did it and why they did it,” she added.