Black Lives Matter mural vandalized; tensions run high as hate crime charges considered
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) – The mayor of Santa Cruz spoke on Sunday to community leaders about the arrest of two suspects accused of defacing the city’s Black Lives Matter mural.
There was much debate about whether the act was a hate crime or just a case of vandalism.
Tensions ran high during the community meeting discussing the vandalism of the BLM mural painted on the street in front of Santa Cruz City Hall.
Investigators arrested 20-year-old Brandon Bochat and 19-year-old Hagan Warner with felony vandalism and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Both are accused of taking turns burning out and intentionally marking the mural.
Now, there are questions and arguments over whether the incident constitutes a hate crime.
“This wasn’t a simple act of vandalism, this was a terrorist act against a Black community,” said a community member during the public meeting Sunday.
“Personally, I’ve seen some worse stuff that’s never had a community meeting,” said another community member at the meeting.
For now, Santa Cruz police said they’re collecting evidence needed to make the case for a hate crime, and if the elements are met, they will seek the appropriate charges.
“Determining whether or not this was an attack on the organization or the individuals who comprise the organization will be an important piece,” Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills said. “We believe that taking a look at the media accounts of those people might boost it to that level.”
The mural took extensive damage, with the tire marks starting from the beginning to the end of the lettering. Police said there are grooves dug into the piece itself and damage to the road.
For community members, the defacing of the mural is symbolic.
“It definitely sends an emotional and damaging psychological message of, you know, there’s a segment of the community that doesn’t want you,” community activist Thairie Ritchie said.
“Our anger is righteous,” said another community member. “This is not about just some rubber on paint. This is about 600 years of continued, nonstop, onslaught genocide of Black and brown people the world over, and when situations happen like this, they trigger us, but trigger meaning, that this one small action leads to several series of events afterward that are harmful.”
So far, Santa Cruz police have not made the decision to charge the two suspects with a hate crime.
They continue their investigation to find other individuals who may have been involved in the vandalism.
They have not announced a deadline for completing their hate crime investigation.
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