KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In late June, local artists came together to celebrate Juneteeth by painting a Black Lives Matter mural on Rose Street in the downtown area.
Over a dozen artists painted different themes on each of the letters, ranging from a sketch of Angela Davis to Bob Marley to letters decorated with 'power to the people' fists.
Friday morning, the mural was found defaced with white paint splashed on top of it.
However, local activists said they weren’t shocked.
“I’m surprised it took this long because, to be honest, that’s just the world we live in,” said activist Quinton Bryant during an interview with FOX 17. “It’s so much hate even here in Kalamazoo. Clearly this is a sign of hate that shows hate.”
Kalamazoo police said they are investigating the incident.
A smashed vodka bottle, covered in white paint, was found lying against the curb near the mural.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Bryant said. “I knew that it was going to happen just based off the energy that we get from people who don’t like us standing up for ourselves.”
A few weeks ago, Bryant and dozens of other people drove to Schoolcraft to draw, paint and chalk over spray-painted messages of ‘Keep America Great’ and ‘White Lives Matter' found on the streets there. While there, a few drivers sped through their work and shouted the same messages at them.
Bryant said he hopes this leads to significant change.
“I think that the murals in a lot of cases have been more performative than anything. I think that we need real change,” said activist Aerick Burton. “You can’t vandalized policy.”
Burton said laws and legislation that combat systemic racism on federal and local levels especially are what's needed to implement real change.
“This is also why we need representation within our community legislators, our congresspeople. Our elections that we just had were pretty disappointing,” Burton said. “We did have some wins but we need people in charge who not only say that they care about our lives but are actually going to do something to prove it.”
FOX 17 reached out to the City of Kalamazoo and the mayors office for a comment. They replied in an email stating:
“The Black Lives Matter mural was created by talented local artists who volunteered their time on Juneteenth. This act of vandalism is being investigated by Public Safety.”
Burton and Bryant said an investigation isn’t enough though. They’d like to see local leaders denounce the incident publicly and enact anti-racist laws.
“Show us that our lives matter. Show us,” Bryant said. “The same way they say they’re going to investigate this, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still at large.”