Santa Cruz’s Black Lives Matter mural was defaced — again. Police are searching for the vandal.
Just five weeks after community members restored the Black Lives Matter mural on Center Street in downtown Santa Cruz, another vandal defaced it.
On Saturday, July 29, just before 6 p.m., Santa Cruz police responded to reports of blue paint splattered across letters of the mural.
“After a lengthy investigation into the evening and scouring the area for video surveillance and other pieces of evidence, it was quickly determined that it was, in fact, an intentional act of vandalism on the mural,” said Santa Cruz Police Chief Bernie Escalante in a press briefing this afternoon.
The police department spent the next few days collecting evidence — including the paint can — and security footage, and they’re now asking for the community’s help in identifying the vandal.
CCTV footage shows a white adult male wearing a light blue shirt, khaki or white shorts, white slip-on sandals, a blue helmet and a paper face mask arriving and leaving the scene on a red scooter. They do not currently have a license plate number for the vehicle.
Community members can reach out via the police department’s social media, website or tip line at 831-420-5995.
The department is currently investigating the crime as a felony vandalism, but it might instead recommend hate crime charges to the district attorney’s office if police find evidence for it. A hate crime, Escalante explained in the briefing, is distinct in how it targets a particular group of people.
City officials met yesterday evening with four members of the Santa Cruz Equity Collaboration — the group that orchestrated the mural and its restoration — to discuss the current updates and support for the community.
“I think it was clear that both the city and the Santa Cruz Equity Collab have the same goals in next steps being to identify this person,” said Santa Cruz City Councilmember and former Mayor Sonja Brunner at the press briefing. The collab released a public statement about the vandalism on social media yesterday evening.
“We know we are on the right track toward obtaining equity, justice, and healing, and we will not be stopped,” reads part of the statement. The equity collab will advocate for a hate crime charge and continue working with the City of Santa Cruz. Its members are considering options for repainting the mural.
NAACP Santa Cruz County President Elaine Johnson drove to the mural on Saturday night after she heard about the vandalism.
“I stand here to say, as the president, we won’t tolerate the fear that’s trying to be instilled on people who look like me,” she said at the press briefing. Johnson then called people in Santa Cruz to examine their actions in everyday life.
“Everybody that’s living in this community has work to do,” she said.
To learn more about anti-racist efforts in Santa Cruz, visit the Santa Cruz chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).
To report tips about the Black Lives Matter mural vandalism, contact the Santa Cruz Police Department.