Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Gay mural defaced in SF's Mission district


A gay-themed mural on the Bryant Street exterior wall of the Mission district's Galeria de la Raza was recently defaced with black spray paint. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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A mural depicting gay Latinos in San Francisco's Mission district has been defaced three times in recent days.

Ani Rivera, executive director of Galeria de la Raza, at 2857 24th Street, where the digital mural known as Por Vida (For Life) is located, said police are investigating the attacks as a hate crime, based on social media messages and threats.

The piece shows a gay couple, a transgender man, and a lesbian couple.

"We did this to bring visibility to a sector of our community, and we're not going to stop because of the threats," said Rivera, who identifies as a queer Chicana and lives in the Mission.

The first incident occurred Monday night, June 15, and was discovered the next day. Someone had spray-painted over about half of the piece, Rivera said. Then, that Tuesday night, the mural was defaced again.

The gallery repaired the damage, but the mural was defaced again with spray paint around midnight Sunday, June 21.

Cameras were installed after the second incident, and Rivera said the footage shows the person painting on the mural and their face, although "we haven't been able to identify them." She wouldn't say what the person looks like, since "it is an active investigation."

Police spokespeople didn't respond to an emailed request for comment.

Artist Manuel Paul, in a statement released by Galeria de la Raza, explained the reason for the mural.

"Por Vida was created to celebrate the LGTBQ Chican@/Latin@ culture within the context of a historically Chicano barrio," Paul, who worked on the mural and is with the Los Angeles-based Maricon Collective, said, using the @ symbol to refer to Chicanos or Chicanas. "Through our art and our work we present counterstories that reflect queers growing up in the Barrio.

"Barrio queerness is not a new concept or trend, it has always existed but has been silenced by centuries of patriarchy and machismo that plague our communities," Paul added. "The love depicted in the mural is meant to reach more than just LGTBQ people; it is meant to create bridges of love and support with one another. ... We remain positive and hope that people can see the message of the mural and what it represents to us as Chican@s/Latin@s that face obstacles in life due to racism, sexism, and homophobia."

Rivera thinks the same person or people are responsible for all the incidents.

"I do believe that, because through social media, we can see that they've been keeping tabs on what's happening," she said. " ... It's the same people through social media continuing to post hateful messages." She added, "They're following every single conversation."

Rivera declined to say which usernames go with the people the gallery suspects are involved, but the gallery provided screenshots of several comments that had been made on social media.

In one remark posted to a photo of the defaced mural, sharktank_408 said, "Looks a lot better like this. Fuckin maricones [faggots] coming up north trying to paint up sf that shits a mockery."

Barrio2barrio said, "So apparently the first gay cholo/a mural was put up in San Francisco mission district over the week. The mural was put up by 'DJ' and member of the #MariconCollective Manuel Paul ... I find it funny aside from disrespectful that this guy was invited from Los Angeles to paint that mural up here. It's funny because this guy is obviously not from around here so therefore knows nothing about the Bay Area cholo lifestyle. If he did, he would know that we don't play that up here."

The commenter added, "The majority of people who support this and encourage it are feminist, lesbians, and groups of people who have no connections to real street or gang, low rider, or cholo lifestyle. ... It seems like the gay community is doing its best to try to cross over into all aspects of life, even the ones that don't apply to them."

Another poster, Moneybags415, said, "Yeah but now if we smack them up they calling the gay police and then we through. But if we smack them up and bounce out the unknown suspect style old school way."

The latest damage hadn't been repaired as of this Monday. Rivera said the gallery's in the process of organizing a date to fix the mural and a community forum "to have a conversation around what's happening." A street celebration would follow the repair day. Dates hadn't been set yet.

The mural will stay up until the end of July, and until then "we'll replace it and fix it as many times as we need to."

Replacing the mural costs about $1,200 each time, Rivera said, and the gallery's already on the third one.

Rivera said this isn't the first time the gallery has had problems with a mural. Another piece depicting a lesbian couple was defaced in 2000.

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