On Saturday morning, 15 volunteers from Women’s March Gainesville painted a mural called “Seeds of Resistance: Best Planted Together” on a 34th Street wall, illustrating their stance on controversial opinions such as immigration, healthcare and gay rights.
Only one day after it was painted, the mural was defaced. Those who painted over the mural wrote their own opinions about the issues displayed, linking those in the “resistance” to autism, dubbing those who identify as LGBTQ+ with having a “mental disorder” and replacing the “Black Lives Matter” with “Blue Lives Matter.”
“Yeah Right” was spray-painted over a sign that said “Stop Climate Change.”
“No” was written over a sign that said “Welcome Immigrants.”
Sunday night, a group unaffiliated with Women’s March Gainesville painted over some of the comments.
Pamela Smith, a volunteer with Women’s March Gainesville, said she was not surprised that others wanted to remove the hate that was displayed by the defacement.
“I understand the pain of people who are personally touched by things such as autism,” Smith said.
Smith originally had the idea to paint the mural. She said she worked very hard to organize the painting event.
Smith said a lot of work went into the project, and because volunteers were proud of what they were doing, they were more than willing to help.
Painting the mural was a wonderful experience, Smith said. Spirits were high and the volunteers were having a great time.
“We were just happy,” she said. “It was an incredible feeling.”
On Sunday afternoon, Smith said Women’s March Gainesville received an inquiry explaining that someone had seen a single man defacing the mural while driving down 34th Street.
Although the man added many changes to the mural, Smith said the most derogatory change was the addition of the word autism. The man adjusted the mural to read “Seeds of Autism” as opposed to “Seeds of Resistance,” adding snowflakes across the wall.
Last month, a Fox News contributor mocked a 10-year-old child with autism by calling him a snowflake, according to a Washington Post article.
Smith said the fact that autism did not have anything to do with this mural appalled her.
She added that despite what occurred on Sunday, she does not consider the time spent painting the mural wasted. The painting will live on, she said.
Smith said she recognizes the defacement of the mural is free speech, but she wishes the man would have written his comments on his own mural instead of on theirs. She added that Women’s March Gainesville will meet Monday night to discuss what to do next about this situation.
In an email, GPD spokesperson Officer Ben Tobias said that when it comes to the murals on 34th Street, you have to take the good with the bad.
“All graffiti is technically against Florida law,” Tobias said, “but there has been an unwritten rule for many years in Gainesville that law enforcement does not enforce the graffiti laws.”
Tobias said although there is no supervision of the wall, Keep Alachua County Beautiful and residents tend to remove “offensive” material rather quickly.
Brittani Sahm, a mass communications Ph.D. student at UF, said she thinks it was disgusting for someone to treat the mural, which was trying to spread awareness in a peaceful fashion, the way they did.
“It’s just kind of sad that somebody feels that they need to do that,” the 27-year-old said. “I don’t really understand it.”
Contact Catie Wegman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @catie_wegman.