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Artist Asked to Paint Over Anti-Police Phrases on Seattle Black Lives Matter Mural

An artist working on restoration efforts of the Black Lives Matter mural in Seattle has been asked to paint over anti-police messages that he included in his contribution.

The Black Lives Matter mural was painted in June during the occupation of Capitol Hill known as CHOP or CHAZ. It is located on Pine Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CHAZ_FinalMural_@kylekotajarviSHOPIFY-1024x555-1.jpg
photo by Kyle Kotajarvi

The mural has since deteriorated due to being applied to an unscored surface covered in slippery aggregate, in addition to some unsuccessful preservation strategies.

In an effort to preserve the mural and its importance to the public, the City of Seattle commissioned the original 16 artists to the tune of over $50,000 to restore the mural.

The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) announced in September that it would be partnering with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the original artists from VividMatterCollective to recreate the mural. Work began on September 22nd and finished last week.

Each artist was tasked with the design and restoration of one letter. The artist of the letter “E” in “Matter” – who has only been identified in reports by his moniker “Future Crystals” – was asked by VividMatterCollective to paint over portions of his piece.

In his design, “Future Crystals” had included vulgar and hateful statements against law enforcement – statements that are commonly chanted at protests and graffitied onto property by protesters:

ACAB (All Cops are Bastards)
F*** 12 (“12” being a slang term for police or law enforcement)
“No good cops in a racist system”
“pigs will be pigs”
“100% ANTIFA”

In a video the artist himself took of his work, “Future Crystals” laughed that “the City of Seattle is paying me to do this.”

According to a statement provided by Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office to KOMO, “Future Crystals” added the words to his piece of the restoration without notifying the other artists. “Our understanding,” the statement read, “is that the collective will be asking them to remove the words.”

In the statement, the Mayor’s office stood by the city’s decision to preserve the mural:

“Our City and nation are in the midst of a reckoning with police violence and systemic racism, and the Mayor believes that the preservation of public art and artistic expression is critical to the continued conversation around how to dismantle institutional barriers and build a better, more just society.

 While the Mayor does not agree with the sentiments expressed above – that wasn’t the intention of this project. The Mayor shouldn’t be the one dictating what these artists depict – the goal was to provide them a space and resources to express themselves.”

KOMO 4 News reporter Jonathan Choe posted video to Twitter on Thursday of the artist painting over the incendiary statements:

Charlette DeFever, an organizer of Capitol Hill Pride, called it “heartbreaking” to see the artist painting over his own work. “It’s censoring an artist’s creativity and his voice and his words,” she said. “It’s literally how we feel about SPD. They may not like the words and things like that, but again, please respect artists’ rights and the community’s rights.”

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