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They made posters to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Hours later, the project was defaced with racist messages.

District Attorney's Office to review case against man seen on video vandalizing youth group's work

A man spray-paints over posters by Palo Alto Youth Art Protest, a group of local students, whose work described examples of past and recent examples of systemic racism in the city on Aug. 8, 2020. The spray-painted messages opposed those compiled by the group. Courtesy Jeremy Gabato.

In the wee hours of Aug. 8, local protesters plastered University Avenue in downtown with anti-racism posters depicting how racial discrimination permeates throughout Palo Alto.

By 10:30 a.m., a white man had spray-painted over the posters with pro-Donald Trump messages and racist rhetoric: "MAGA (Make America Great Again);" "THEY (Black people) COMMIT MORE CRIMES" and splotches of gold paint that obscured quotes and QR codes linked to information on the posters.

On Monday, the city washed and scraped the posters away.

"I'm not shocked. I don't put (this incident) past Palo Alto," said Hudson Alexander, 20, a Gunn High School alumnus who helped organize the display.

The event was led by a group of mostly local high school and college students, who call themselves Palo Alto Youth Art Protest and intended the display to serve as a quiet demonstration.

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Organizers said the group was created in June to localize a movement that was happening around the world and to push their own hometown to reckon with its issues on racism.

"There's some sort of shallow liberalism that operates in the city of Palo Alto," Alexander said. "And there's not a lot of action behind words."

The result was a quiet, but pointed and highly methodical protest that was emblematic of the times. The paper used for the posters was recycled. The environmentally friendly glue used to stick them on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto — a prime location where foot traffic is guaranteed since the city closed the road in June for outdoor dining — was made of flour, water and sugar; and each informational sign was cited with QR codes to direct passersby to the source as a way to combat any accusations of "fake news," said Lucia Amieva-Wang, a 19-year-old Palo Alto High School alumna who helped organize the event.

Along with the artwork, portraits and a quote from novelist James Baldwin, many of the 26 posters pointed people's attention to past and recent examples of systemic racism in Palo Alto and Santa Clara County.

"The majority of subdivisions established in the city between 1925 and 1950 included the following clause," one poster stated, quoting paloaltohistory.org: "No person not wholly of the white caucasian race shall use or occupy such property unless such person or persons are employed as servants of the occupants."

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Another poster had black-and-white yearbook photos with the following message: "In the 2018-2019 school year, 7.2% of Black students were suspended from PAUSD. 0.7% of white students were suspended." (According to a 2019 report from the California School Dashboard, an online database of statistics on the state's school systems, 6.7% of Black students at Palo Alto Unified were suspended at least once, compared to the 0.7% of white students.)

"We wanted this to be like an exhibit in downtown, where people would walk away learning something new about the racism that exists everyday in Palo Alto," Amieva-Wang said.

Posters with information on past and recent examples of racism in Palo Alto are plastered on University Avenue in downtown before they were defaced on Aug. 8. Courtesy Palo Alto Youth Art Protest.

But in a few hours, the posters were vandalized. The man, who made contact with the Palo Alto Police Department after the incident, spray-painted most of the posters, one by one, refuting each of its messages with what he called "corrections," according to a passersby's video of the altercation. The city did not immediately have his name available to release to this news organization.

On one poster, which cited how the city spent $44.6 million on the Palo Alto Police Department in the 2019-20 fiscal year, he spray-painted, "Give them more."

In the video, the man is seen shouting, "Patriot lives matter" and "You're pro-death camps," referring to unsubstantiated claims that the Black Lives Matter organization supports reported death camps in China.

"This is all anti-Trump," he said, and then repeated a now popularized, but unfounded far-right conspiracy theory about how Trump was "putting his foot down" on pedophiles.

The man was cited for vandalism by police, Meghan Horrigan-Taylor, the city's chief communications officer, said in an email. The case has since been referred to the Santa Clara County's District Attorney's Office to consider issuing charges of vandalism and/or a hate crime, she wrote.

On Friday afternoon, a District Attorney's spokesperson said the office had not received the case yet.

In a similar case, a couple from Martinez, a city in Contra Costa County, was recently charged for a hate crime by county District Attorney Diana Becton for vandalizing a city-approved and sanctioned Black Lives Matter mural with paint. According to a Mercury News report, however, several prosecutors within Becton's office disagreed with the charge.

Unlike the "Black Lives Matter" street mural on Hamilton Avenue — funded and approved by city officials — the Palo Alto Youth Art Protest's project was done without the city's permission.

"I don't know the exact legal definition of a hate crime," Alexander said. "But I will say there was hate behind (the incident), 100,000%."

Black-and-white portraits were among Palo Alto Youth Art Protest's posters plastered on University Avenue in downtown. Courtesy Palo Alto Youth Art Protest.

To the dismay of the Palo Alto Youth Art Protest, the posters, even those that were not vandalized, were scraped away on Monday by city workers. (In an Aug. 8 email sent to the City Council on the same day of the incident, the group said it would remove the posters if the city does not agree with the demonstration instead of having janitorial or city staff take care of the job, as it "would be counterproductive to the message and the movement, and disrespectful to our community workers.")

Assistant City Manager Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne responded to the group's email on Monday, saying that the city supports peaceful protests in the community but "the vandalized posters no longer shared your intended messages" since the "negative comments added were intended to harm one aspect of our community."

She also wrote that the city "retains the right to remove items placed in the roadway and other right-of-way areas without warning or reason,"

Horrigan-Taylor agreed, noting that the posters were ultimately "placed illegally on a city street." She did not respond for clarification as to which aspect of the community the city believed was being harmed.

According to another email between the protest group and city officials, including Mayor Adrian Fine, the group was told by a Palo Alto police officer that "if the organizers were to want to do it again, that in his opinion, there wouldn't be a problem from the city's side."

Since the incident, a GoFundMe page was set up by Palo Alto Youth Art Protest, seeking $1,500 for more supplies for a follow-up protest event. The page raised $2,710 as of Friday afternoon.

Alexander said some of the money will be used on supplies for a "part 2" of Saturday's protest, and the remaining funds will be donated to local nonprofit organizations.

"You don't have to silence someone else's voice, which is what historically this country has done, to say what you have to say," Amieva-Wang said.

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They made posters to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Hours later, the project was defaced with racist messages.

District Attorney's Office to review case against man seen on video vandalizing youth group's work

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 14, 2020, 4:52 pm

In the wee hours of Aug. 8, local protesters plastered University Avenue in downtown with anti-racism posters depicting how racial discrimination permeates throughout Palo Alto.

By 10:30 a.m., a white man had spray-painted over the posters with pro-Donald Trump messages and racist rhetoric: "MAGA (Make America Great Again);" "THEY (Black people) COMMIT MORE CRIMES" and splotches of gold paint that obscured quotes and QR codes linked to information on the posters.

On Monday, the city washed and scraped the posters away.

"I'm not shocked. I don't put (this incident) past Palo Alto," said Hudson Alexander, 20, a Gunn High School alumnus who helped organize the display.

The event was led by a group of mostly local high school and college students, who call themselves Palo Alto Youth Art Protest and intended the display to serve as a quiet demonstration.

Organizers said the group was created in June to localize a movement that was happening around the world and to push their own hometown to reckon with its issues on racism.

"There's some sort of shallow liberalism that operates in the city of Palo Alto," Alexander said. "And there's not a lot of action behind words."

The result was a quiet, but pointed and highly methodical protest that was emblematic of the times. The paper used for the posters was recycled. The environmentally friendly glue used to stick them on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto — a prime location where foot traffic is guaranteed since the city closed the road in June for outdoor dining — was made of flour, water and sugar; and each informational sign was cited with QR codes to direct passersby to the source as a way to combat any accusations of "fake news," said Lucia Amieva-Wang, a 19-year-old Palo Alto High School alumna who helped organize the event.

Along with the artwork, portraits and a quote from novelist James Baldwin, many of the 26 posters pointed people's attention to past and recent examples of systemic racism in Palo Alto and Santa Clara County.

"The majority of subdivisions established in the city between 1925 and 1950 included the following clause," one poster stated, quoting paloaltohistory.org: "No person not wholly of the white caucasian race shall use or occupy such property unless such person or persons are employed as servants of the occupants."

Another poster had black-and-white yearbook photos with the following message: "In the 2018-2019 school year, 7.2% of Black students were suspended from PAUSD. 0.7% of white students were suspended." (According to a 2019 report from the California School Dashboard, an online database of statistics on the state's school systems, 6.7% of Black students at Palo Alto Unified were suspended at least once, compared to the 0.7% of white students.)

"We wanted this to be like an exhibit in downtown, where people would walk away learning something new about the racism that exists everyday in Palo Alto," Amieva-Wang said.

But in a few hours, the posters were vandalized. The man, who made contact with the Palo Alto Police Department after the incident, spray-painted most of the posters, one by one, refuting each of its messages with what he called "corrections," according to a passersby's video of the altercation. The city did not immediately have his name available to release to this news organization.

On one poster, which cited how the city spent $44.6 million on the Palo Alto Police Department in the 2019-20 fiscal year, he spray-painted, "Give them more."

In the video, the man is seen shouting, "Patriot lives matter" and "You're pro-death camps," referring to unsubstantiated claims that the Black Lives Matter organization supports reported death camps in China.

"This is all anti-Trump," he said, and then repeated a now popularized, but unfounded far-right conspiracy theory about how Trump was "putting his foot down" on pedophiles.

The man was cited for vandalism by police, Meghan Horrigan-Taylor, the city's chief communications officer, said in an email. The case has since been referred to the Santa Clara County's District Attorney's Office to consider issuing charges of vandalism and/or a hate crime, she wrote.

On Friday afternoon, a District Attorney's spokesperson said the office had not received the case yet.

In a similar case, a couple from Martinez, a city in Contra Costa County, was recently charged for a hate crime by county District Attorney Diana Becton for vandalizing a city-approved and sanctioned Black Lives Matter mural with paint. According to a Mercury News report, however, several prosecutors within Becton's office disagreed with the charge.

Unlike the "Black Lives Matter" street mural on Hamilton Avenue — funded and approved by city officials — the Palo Alto Youth Art Protest's project was done without the city's permission.

"I don't know the exact legal definition of a hate crime," Alexander said. "But I will say there was hate behind (the incident), 100,000%."

To the dismay of the Palo Alto Youth Art Protest, the posters, even those that were not vandalized, were scraped away on Monday by city workers. (In an Aug. 8 email sent to the City Council on the same day of the incident, the group said it would remove the posters if the city does not agree with the demonstration instead of having janitorial or city staff take care of the job, as it "would be counterproductive to the message and the movement, and disrespectful to our community workers.")

Assistant City Manager Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne responded to the group's email on Monday, saying that the city supports peaceful protests in the community but "the vandalized posters no longer shared your intended messages" since the "negative comments added were intended to harm one aspect of our community."

She also wrote that the city "retains the right to remove items placed in the roadway and other right-of-way areas without warning or reason,"

Horrigan-Taylor agreed, noting that the posters were ultimately "placed illegally on a city street." She did not respond for clarification as to which aspect of the community the city believed was being harmed.

According to another email between the protest group and city officials, including Mayor Adrian Fine, the group was told by a Palo Alto police officer that "if the organizers were to want to do it again, that in his opinion, there wouldn't be a problem from the city's side."

Since the incident, a GoFundMe page was set up by Palo Alto Youth Art Protest, seeking $1,500 for more supplies for a follow-up protest event. The page raised $2,710 as of Friday afternoon.

Alexander said some of the money will be used on supplies for a "part 2" of Saturday's protest, and the remaining funds will be donated to local nonprofit organizations.

"You don't have to silence someone else's voice, which is what historically this country has done, to say what you have to say," Amieva-Wang said.

Comments

Boho
Registered user
Green Acres
on Aug 14, 2020 at 7:31 pm
Boho, Green Acres
Registered user
on Aug 14, 2020 at 7:31 pm
102 people like this

How do you deface posters that themselves deface public property? By what legal logic is only one form of graffiti allowed but not another?


Outsider
Registered user
another community
on Aug 14, 2020 at 7:41 pm
Outsider, another community
Registered user
on Aug 14, 2020 at 7:41 pm
104 people like this

I'm confused. One vandal vandalized another vandal's vandalism. But 2nd vandal's political views are less popular than 1st vandal's political views so 2nd vandal gets charged with vandalism and possibly a hate crime.


Gunn Papa
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Aug 15, 2020 at 8:51 am
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2020 at 8:51 am
18 people like this

I get that the people who posted the art on the street didn’t have permission, but aren’t we liberal enough in Palo Alto to tolerate it temporarily?


Resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 15, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2020 at 12:39 pm
70 people like this

The "vandal" is a hero to me and he speaks for MANY of us. Bravo!

These BLM riots are destructive and need to be stymied, corralled, and shut down. I believe that black lives matter but I am vehemently opposed to the [portion removed] "Black Lives Matter" movement


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 15, 2020 at 5:35 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 15, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2020 at 7:52 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2020 at 7:52 am
21 people like this

We seem to be pushing the envelope on this topic. We have a large number of distinct ethnic groups who came to America when the Soviet block was broken down in 1991. We have a large number of ethnic groups who preceded them when the Ottoman Empire broke up. Add to that Asian ethnic groups that came as a result of the various wars in their countries. All of these groups have nothing to do with the colonial practice of using foreign help from Africa during our colonial period. Worse - today you have Africans trying to get to the European coast in little boats - they are trying to escape from Africa.

The movement of people and the indignities they all experienced is a global issue applicable to all people. People are going through major wars in their countries. We need to respect ourselves and all of the people who are struggling to get from point a to point b.

The people who are here now are citizens of this country. That is the goal. Top goal is achieved. So now the next goals is assimilating, going to school, and figuring out what skills you have and contributing to the overall building of the country.


Brian
Registered user
another community
on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:46 am
Brian, another community
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 10:46 am
56 people like this

If I were to wheat paste NRA posters supporting the right to concealed carry on buildings in downtown Palo Alto, would those have been tolerated? How about posters protesting against high taxes? Or how about anti-Marxism posters?

If the answer to any of those is "no," then these posters shouldn't be allowed either. The first amendment guarantees the right to protest, however, a government entity does not have a right to choose sides in a protest. That the police are attempting to prosecute one vandal for damage to another vandal's message is showing favoritism towards one specific message over another which is implicitly a violation of both Equal Protection as well as the First Amendment.

Remember, even repugnant or "hate speech" is protected under the First Amendment. Snyder v. Phelps is a recent case that further affirms that protection.

I don't agree with racism (or vandalism,) however, the equal application of the first amendment is paramount. If Palo Alto were truly "liberal," then the First Amendment wouldn't be treated as a one-sided pass to speak one message while restricting other. True "liberalism" requires a respect for everyone to exercise their rights guaranteed under the Constitution -- even those with whom we disagree. And, defacing property is not one of those rights. You have a right to speak, but you don't have a right to damage property in the process.

The original poster-hangers should be prosecuted with vandalism. It doesn't matter if their message was puppies and unicorns, the fact is, there is a law against vandalism and they don't have the right to break those laws in the furtherance of their message. However, if we agree that protest does include the right to vandalism, then the person who defaced the posters is well within his rights to vandalize the posters. The lack of equality in the enforcement of the law is really the question here. Why can one person deface a building without punishment while another person defacing the defacement is subject to arrest? If they are being arrested for the content of their message, then that's 100% a First Amendment violation.

Supporting Trump isn't a hate crime. Saying that Black people commit more crimes also isn't a hate crime. True or not, that's an opinion that has the same right of being expressed as a counter statement that "White people commit more crimes."

If we're going to be "liberal" then let's be liberal. Being liberal isn't just supporting things you already agree with. In fact, that's the opposite of liberal. Being liberal is about tolerance -- tolerance of ideas of which you might not personally agree, even ideas you might find repugnant.


resident
Registered user
Stanford
on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:01 am
resident, Stanford
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:01 am
15 people like this

I hope that the comments from people who support the angry young man who defaced the student project, disrespecting the student protest, do not represent the views of most of the people in our community.

The cowardly act of defacing the artwork and running away contrasts with the courage the students had in expressing their views.

And, sadly, whoever decided it was better to scrap away the work and pretend that nothing happened, also lacked courage.

I wish that the work had remained, with the graffiti that was spray painted on it. Instead, we have this string of comments from people who remain anonymous.

We are all cowards. We should show up and talk to the students who had the courage to put their views down for us to see.

These students give me hope for the future.


Stepheny
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:55 am
Stepheny , Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 11:55 am
21 people like this

Perhaps the City should turn these artist protesters loose in the Cubberly parking lot and designate this as free space for any and all opinion pieces. Let all sides paint representative whinings for whatever past issues or slights they feel impacted their lives, since apparently this is affecting them worse than a case of Covid. By giving preferential treatment to BLM or LGBTQQX, we are not being fair to other groups with different causes and opinions. Aren't both BLM and LGBTQQX about fairness and respect, not preferential treatment out of pity?

City streets should not be blanketed with just one group's side, let alone a BLM "art" work which features a Black terrorist, even if she is a woman. Joanne Chesimard should not have a place of honor anywhere, let alone on a public street.


Mikey Palo Alto
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Aug 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm
Mikey Palo Alto, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm
10 people like this

Anybody who believes "laws" are applied evenly and fairly in the U.S. is either naive or delusional. That's why supreme court appointments have become so politicized. The constitution is a fine directional document, but let's be honest and acknowledge that trying to interpret it literally is impossible... and why would we want to? It's an anachronistic document that can't possibly address every corner case in a much more complex society than our founders every envisioned. The student artwork was in defense of equality and liberty for ALL. Defacing that artwork is an attack on those values. You cannot possibly equate the two as vandalism in a sane and just society.


Neighbor
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 17, 2020 at 4:54 pm
Neighbor, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 4:54 pm
5 people like this

I applaud the students who worked so hard and creatively to make a statement and educate our community. It is clear from the many indicating approval of hateful graffiti painted on these posters that bigotry persists in our “liberal” town. To equate well presented posters temporarily glued to pavement to graffiti is just another way to hate. No property was destroyed (unlike the spray paint used), no insults were cast (again, unlike the spray paint), and great care was taken to provide factual and referenced info (once again, unlike the anger-driven paint-overs). Hang in there, peaceful protestors, your message was received.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Aug 17, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2020 at 6:20 pm
16 people like this

Enough is enough. Move on. We have enough going on without all this nonsense.


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