Black and red paint was found Wednesday morning splattered over a pro-police “Back the Blue” mural outside Tampa Police Department headquarters. The mural was painted Aug. 1 and lasted just three days before it was defaced.
Courtesy of Drones Above the Bay
TAMPA — Black and red paint was found Wednesday morning splattered over a pro-police “Back the Blue” mural outside Tampa Police Department headquarters. The mural was painted Aug. 1 and lasted just three days before it was defaced.
The paint appeared to cover portions of the word “blue.” It’s unclear who damaged the mural. Police are investigating, said spokeswoman Jamel Laneè. She did not provide further details.
Kristen Krutz, a Tampa resident who organized the mural’s creation, said she was disappointed to see it defaced. She said volunteers would be out Wednesday to repaint it.
“This is a support to law enforcement, and we should have the right to exercise our First Amendment right and show support,” said Krutz, 36. We believe in law enforcement. We want law enforcement in our cities. We don’t want to defund the police. That’s what this is about.”
At Tampa City Council meetings, people have called on officials to defund the Tampa Police Department, but Mayor Jane Castor has said she’s not on board with the idea.
The mural was painted without the city’s permission last weekend after organizers worked unsuccessfully for weeks to get approval.
About 40 volunteers blocked traffic on East Madison Street with personal vehicles and orange cones while they painted. Volunteers came from Back the Blue Florida, an online community with nearly 6,000 members. Volunteers from Community Patriots Tampa, a private Facebook group with more than 1,000 members also assisted with painting the mural.
Jeff Hawks, a member of Community Patriots, declined to comment on the defacement of the mural.
Castor later released a statement welcoming the mural as a tribute honoring law enforcement’s service. But she said it was unfortunate the organizers didn’t finish the permitting process so the community could participate in showing its appreciation for law enforcement.
Krutz told the Times on Monday she expected the mural to be vandalized.
“There’s no doubt if they go out there and deface this mural that somebody is going to deface theirs,” Krutz said then. “That’s what irritates me. And it’s not going to be me. But it’s going to happen.”
The mural was heavily criticized on social media as being difficult to read and ugly. Comedian Patton Oswalt weighed in on Twitter with a sarcastic comment: “Are you kidding? That looks great. I will always Blrbk the Blub.” Local Black Lives Matter activists said it felt like a retaliation to the movement and its murals.
Krutz said she has seen more positive comments about the mural than negative. The mural has received praise on Facebook from “Back the Blue” and other pro-police groups. However, Krutz also said people have left death threats for her on her voicemail since the mural was painted.
“I have a family and a life and just because I have a different viewpoint, just because I want to show support for law enforcement because I don’t agree with defunding the police, that does not give you the right to attack my person and threaten my life,” Krutz said.
Whoever defaced the mural, Krutz said, doesn’t respect the First Amendment rights of others.
“The Black Lives Matter murals have been up for quite a while and no one with a different opinion has vandalized them,” she said.
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