by Leslie Layton
Police said today they’re investigating “possible leads” after a graffiti assault in southwest Chico left 10 sites defaced with racist insignia.
Swastikas and the wording “White Power” were found early June 2 on many of the walls that were struck, including those of a Mexican restaurant and private homes and businesses. A photo appearing on Facebook also shows vicious, spray-painted graffiti that included the N-word, the word “Nazi,” the letters “SS” and a swastika on the side of a building.
Chico Police Public Information Officer Michelle Walker said the graffiti was found off West Sacramento Avenue in various places, including on an apartment complex and gas station. Walker said she doesn’t believe officers have video footage to help the investigation, but “they’re working on possible leads.”
Walker said she didn’t know if the weekend’s graffiti assault was connected to last month’s attack on the Mechoopda-Maidu mural on West Second Street. But frustrated activists suspect that at least some of the same people were involved and want police to take racist vandalism more seriously. Social media discussions were focused today on how to call for a thorough police or FBI investigation.
Photos that were sent to ChicoSol on Sunday suggest that some of the graffiti this past weekend may have been produced with a black marker pen and resembles graffiti that damaged the mural. Four swastikas were drawn on the Mechoopda mural, as well as the wording “white power” and “I got your land b*tch.”
A Chico Police Department press release says: “Racial slurs were discovered spray painted at some of the locations… The City of Chico graffiti removal staff were called and responded to this incident in an effort to remove the graffiti immediately.”
Rain Scher, active with Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and Justice for Desmond, said the mural incident, and racism in general, hasn’t been taken seriously by the City Council or Chico police.
“I hope this incident makes them take it seriously,” Scher said, adding that they plan to speak about it at the June 4 City Council meeting. “They’re sending a message,” Scher said of the vandals. “They want people of color to be afraid. It’s a threat and it’s terrorism. They’re gaining momentum.”
In April, racist graffiti and swastikas defaced faculty bulletin boards and office doors in Butte Hall on the Chico State University campus, and the University Police Department said it was investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.
Ali Meders-Knight, one of three artists working on the Second Street mural where a native Mechoopda village was once located said the mural vandalism was a reminder of “historical trauma.”
When the mural was defaced, Meders-Knight found a poster taped to a telephone pole nearby that showed the image of a lightning bolt. She later learned the image is called a “SS Bolt” that the Anti-Defamation League says is often used as a “…neo-Nazi symbol derived from Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany.”
Meders-Knight said that when she reported the vandalism, an officer implied that by speaking out publicly about the incident she might be further exposing herself as a potential target.
“The hatred has been here for a while,” said Meders-Knight, a member of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe, “and it’s time that it’s addressed publicly. People like me are getting targeted. It’s meant to scare us and we need to show that we’re not scared.”