Supporters of a north Wichita mural celebrating immigration that was vandalized twice in six weeks got out their scrub brushes and sponges again on Saturday, and in less than an hour, they’d removed two swastikas spray painted on the artwork earlier in the week.
And they’ll keep getting their scrub brushes and sponges out as many times as they have to, they said.
“We don’t know who did this, if they did it for shock value or for entertainment or to send a hateful message,” said social worker Shaunna Millar, the organizer of Saturday’s cleanup crew. “But regardless of what the message is they’re sending, we don’t want to receive it, so we’re going to eliminate it.”
The mural, painted on the side of a store at 21st and Park Place, is a colorful piece that depicts two people wrapped in flags, one an American and one Mexican. A pair of hands reach over a chain-link fence with the Statue of Liberty in view. “Immigration is beautiful,” it reads.
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In early February, vandals spray painted the words “KKK,” “welfare” and slur against people from Mexico on the mural, which originally was painted by a group of South High School students called Latino Leaders. Volunteers removed the graffiti and added a clear coat over the mural.
Then, on late Monday or early Tuesday, the mural was vandalized again, this time with two swastikas drawn with black spray paint.
The clear coat made the latest round of vandalism easier to remove. A group of eight volunteers that included adults, teens and small children used an organic cleanser plus brushes, sponges and paper towels to remove the spray paint. It came off easily, though the scrubbing took some of the original paint with it. Volunteers will have to come back later and touch it up, Millar said.
Security cameras have been installed to catch any future attempts at vandalizing the mural.
As the volunteers worked on Saturday morning, passersby stopped to watch and snap pictures. Two women strolling in the neighborhood with two children stopped and asked the volunteers what they were doing, concerned that they were removing the mural.
But the volunteers assured them that was the opposite of what they were doing.
Volunteer Kristina Everingham, whose husband is a Mexican citizen working to get his American citizenship, said that she took the vandalism personally.
“Immigration is beautiful. My children are a product of immigration, and they are beautiful,” said Everingham, a social worker who helps immigrant children as part of her job with Child Start. “It didn’t take many people to put that up, but a lot more people are here to clean it up.”