MARTINEZ, Calif. - A controversial Black Lives Matter street mural in Martinez will be paved over as the city looks to find a permanent location for a civil rights art installation in the city.
City officials on Wednesday announced at a city council meeting that the mural would be covered due to a street paving project in October. The paving was approved by the city in May and the project will improve ADA accessibility on street corners, according to Vice Mayor Mark Ross.
Mural organizer, Justin Gomez, said city officials have delayed the process of finding a permanent place for their art installation. It’s been more than two months since Gomez was granted a city permit for the BLM mural. He said at the time, officials agreed to find a long-term home for a civil rights art piece, but no officials locations have been identified.
“It just shows that continuing this message in Martinez was not a priority for them,” Gomez said.
Vice Mayor Ross said the city is possibly looking at the local Boys and Girls Clubs in Martinez as a possible site for the mural, but nothing has been finalized.
The BLM street mural drew strong reactions from a divided community. It’s also been defaced multiple times. A man and woman were arrested on hate crime charges for allegedly vandalizing the mural with black paint. The couple is set to appear in court for a pre-trial hearing on October 13.
Following the couple’s arrest, city officials dealt with angry email and calls from across the country, including death threats, and a protest that remained peaceful.
“A strong statement will bring strong reactions,” Ross said. “We've had people that have hated the mural from day one... and that points to the actual nature of the problem.”
Ross went on to say that he wants people of color to feel supported and welcome in Martinez. He said the city is in the process of creating a citizen led anti-racism task force. As of Thursday, 24 applications had been received. The task force will look at city policies to see if there is any inherent racism that needs to be corrected.
“It's time to move on to action… seeing where we can end systemic racism if we have any in Martinez,” Ross said.
He noted that changes are being made the city’s process for reviewing and approving future art projects. People who submit an application for a permit will have a list of requirements to meet, including how long the art will be in place, who will pay for installation and removal.
Gomez said the BLM mural has faded in time, but his requests to refresh and repaint the mural have been denied by city officials.
“If they're not willing to stand up for a symbolic statement, how are they going to listen to community recommendations that are meant to protect black community members,” he said.