Couple Who Painted Over Black Lives Matter Mural Charged with a Hate Crime
The temporary mural had just been painted on the street outside the courthouse moments before it was defaced
Two California residents have been charged with committing a hate crime after eyewitnesses posted footage showing them painting over a Black Lives Matter mural outside the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.
A statement from the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office confirms Martinez residents David Nelson, 53, and Nicole Anderson, 42, have each been charged with three misdemeanor counts, including violation of civil rights, vandalism and possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti.
The alleged vandalism took place on July 4, the prosecutor's statement says.
Investigators allege in the statement that "defendant Anderson covered up a Black Lives Matter mural with black paint," and that "Nelson directly aided in the alleged criminal conduct. The incident was captured on video by witnesses."
The temporary mural had just been painted on the street outside the courthouse moments earlier.
The prosecutor's office confirms the City of Martinez had approved a permit for the mural on July 1.
The statement adds: "Nelson and Anderson arrived at the scene of the mural after it was completed with paint supplies. Anderson started to paint over the yellow letters 'B' and 'L' in the word 'Black.' She used black paint and a large paint roller to do so. The video has been shared widely by witnesses and shared on social media."
In the video, Nelson, when asked by passersby why he was defacing the mural, replied, "We're sick of this narrative ... The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism, it's a lie."
A woman can be heard telling the two suspects, "This is racist, what you're doing."
Anderson is heard saying, "This is not happening in my town."
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton defended the charges Tuesday.
"We must address the root and byproduct of systemic racism in our country," Becton says in the statement.
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"The Black Lives Matter movement is an important civil rights cause that deserves all of our attention," she continued. "The mural completed last weekend was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country. We must continue to elevate discussions and actually listen to one another in an effort to heal our community and country.”
Neither Nelson nor Anderson could be reached for comment on the charges.
PEOPLE was unable to ascertain if either has an attorney.
Both faces up to a year in prison if convicted on all charges. It was unclear Wednesday if they had entered pleas to the charges against them.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.