In the latest act of vandalism this month, the mural outside the Mission district’s Galería de la Raza was set on fire Monday night. The section of Manuel Paul’s mural “Por Vida” that depicts two men embracing was burned beyond recognition just after 11 pm.
“This is an act of terrorism in every sense of the word,” said Henry Pacheco, Galería's communications representative. “They are terrorizing the staff of Galería, the people who live in the building, and the larger community. If it weren’t for the person who came with the fire extinguisher, the entire block could’ve been burned down.”
The mural, which L.A.-based artist Paul created as a celebration of lowrider culture and Chicano LGBT pride, was first erected on June 12. It has since been reinstalled twice by Galería volunteers after the piece was vandalized over two consecutive weekends, as previously reported by KQED Arts.
The most recent acts of vandalism, including Monday night’s arson attack, were captured by surveillance cameras and the footage is currently under review by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD.)
“There was an accelerant that was found at the scene, as well as an incendiary device, and essentially it’s being investigated as a hate crime and an arson,” said SFPD Spokesman Albie Esparza. Esparza described the suspect as a 5’9” white or Hispanic male between the ages of 20-40 who was dressed in black and wearing white gloves. “The suspect did have his face covered in this latest video so we’re asking the public’s help if they know who this person is.”
Ani Rivera, Galería de la Raza's executive director, is now working to create a space for her neighbors and community members to talk about the impact of the vandalism.
“We have to take this horrible situation and turn it into a healing opportunity," Rivera said. "The issue is so much bigger than the mural itself."
Tomorrow night, Galería de la Raza will host a rally in front of the burned mural to elicit support and feedback from the community.