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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Volunteers repaint 34th Street Wall

Rollers thick with gray paint slide across the wall, covering layers and layers of birthday messages, profanity, graffiti tags and artistic scenery.

Volunteers from the community painted over graffiti tags on the 34th Street Wall on Saturday morning, replacing them with the message "KEEP OUR CITY CLEAN AND GREEN."

Underneath the new paint were the words "EVERY COP INVOLVED SHOULD ROT IN PRISON," which appeared after September's UF Tasering incident.

A memorial for the students who died in the Danny Rolling murders was tagged with blue graffiti. The same happened to the memorial of a local soldier, Army specialist Chris Neiberger, who died in Iraq in August.

Nora Spencer, the UF director of LGBT Affairs, brought about 20 students from her First Year Florida class to help paint the wall.

UF nutritional sciences junior Akeelah Ammons said it was great to see so many people come together to repaint.

"With freedom of speech comes responsibility to the public," Ammons said. "It's an unwritten rule to be respectful."

Freshman Jocelyn Velazquez was one of the volunteers who touched up the U.S. flag of a memorial for soldiers.

As red, white and blue paint was slathered onto the surface, the blue graffiti vanished, and a flag reappeared.

"There are so many other ways you can express yourself," Velazquez said of the tagging.

Keep Alachua County Beautiful is responsible for keeping up the appearance of the wall.

Mark Cline takes care of graffiti problems throughout the community for Keep Alachua County Beautiful.

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He takes pictures of graffiti before he paints over it. The main concern on the 34th Street Wall is profanity.

"It's a shame I have to come down here and babysit college students," he said.

Keep Alachua County Beautiful program director Kharyssa Rhodes said while some parts of the wall change, it is an unspoken rule in the Gainesville community that the 34th Street Wall memorials remain untouched.

Rhodes might try to instill a city permitting system for wall painting.

They may also ask the city to install video cameras to monitor wall activity, she said.

"DONT TASE ME BRO" was also marked three times over Gainesville Police Department Lt. Corey Dahlem's memorial.

Dahlem was hit by a drunken driver while patrolling the streets after the spring basketball championship.

Katie Dahlem, his daughter, helped volunteers paint on Saturday.

Her father's memorial was touched up on Thursday.

"I know my family can't thank these people enough," she said.

Katie, an SFCC criminal justice sophomore, said it hurt when she found out someone vandalized her father's memorial.

She said the memorial serves an important purpose.

"I like having it," Katie said. "I like people to drive by, remembering it."

A tattoo surrounds her ankle and reads, "R.I.P. Dad-39-Always my hero." Thirty-nine was his badge number.

Rhodes said people used to let each panel remain untouched for a couple of days. The wall would be covered with birthday and anniversary art.

"It used to be very positive messages," Rhodes said. "They're getting obliterated almost instantly by graffiti."

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