An aerial view of the Black Lives Matter mural Monday, after it was vandalized for a second time.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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‘Our Black community is feeling that very strongly right now’: BLM mural organizers push for hate crime charge after latest vandalism

Following the second vandalism of the Black Lives Matter mural in front of Santa Cruz City Hall, SC Equity Collab co-founder Shandara Gill said the group continues to push for a restorative justice approach even as it advocates for a hate crime charge against the perpetrator.

Organizers behind the Black Lives Matter mural in front of Santa Cruz City Hall say they are “heartbroken” and searching for ways to raise awareness about anti-Black sentiment in the community after the mural was vandalized for the second time in two years.

“Our Black community is feeling that very strongly right now,” said Shandara Gill, co-founder of SC Equity Collab, which spearheaded the mural to honor the racial justice movement sparked by the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Members of the group are working with city leaders to discuss and plan ways to educate local residents about ongoing racism and anti-Blackness in Santa Cruz.

Although the Collab does not have specific events or initiatives planned, members met with Santa Cruz city leaders on Tuesday evening to discuss how they can work together to combat anti-Blackness — and encourage the community to do the same.

Paint splattered across the Black Lives Matter mural in front of Santa Cruz City Hall.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“We want to invite everyone in the community, and especially the white community, to answer the question of what standing up for racial justice looks like,” Gill said. “This is more than just blue paint.”

Santa Cruz police say someone was captured on surveillance footage around 6 p.m. Saturday throwing blue paint on the mural. The incident marks the second time the Black Lives Matter mural has been vandalized in just two years. In July 2021, Brandon Bochat and Hagan Warner did burnouts over the mural, leaving tread marks that remained for nearly two years. They were sentenced in November 2022.

The latest vandalism comes little more than a month after community members gathered to finally repair the mural with Bochat and Warner, who issued public apologies in a restorative justice approach.

“We were overjoyed to see the community reunite, participate in the repaint and bear witness to our restorative justice efforts,” the Collab said in a statement Tuesday. “To go through that day and feel overjoyed with the outcome, only to see the mural defaced again, strengthens our commitment to supporting members of the Black community and anyone facing discrimination.”

Gill said that following Saturday’s vandalism, the Santa Cruz Fire Department came to the mural unprompted and began to wash the paint off with fire hoses.

District 3 County Supervisor Justin Cummings, who was Santa Cruz mayor when the mural was installed in 2020, said people had anticipated that some form of vandalism might happen, given how easy the mural is to access. Determining how to follow up is the hard part.

Because the mural is along a busy street, protecting it from future vandalism attempts is a challenge, said Cummings. He added that possible solutions could include increasing the number of surveillance cameras around the mural or increasing fines associated with hate crime vandalism. But both Cummings and Collab members say they are hopeful that justice will, again, be served.

“The challenge is trying to balance the community’s feelings as to what should happen and what the consequences should be,” Cummings said.

In its statement, the Collab said it would “tirelessly advocate for a hate crime charge.” Gill added that, should the perpetrator of this weekend’s vandalism be caught, the group still favors a restorative justice approach, which focuses on having perpetrators of a crime take responsibility for their actions as part of their sentence.

“We are grateful for a model of restorative justice to handle these kinds of incidents,” Gill said. “But whoever did it has to be willing to participate.”

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