Hundreds of people gathered in San Francisco’s Mission District on Wednesday to rally in support of a vandalized mural that celebrates Latino LGBTQ.
The rally featured speakers, dancers and poets.
Manuel Paul’s mural, "Por Vida," has been defaced four times since it was put up for Pride month by Galería de la Raza, an art gallery located at the corner of 24th and Bryant Street.
The mural depicts two gay couples and a trans man.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, an openly gay Latino, helped organize the event along with Galería de la Raza.
“After such a beautiful and historic Pride weekend, it was heartbreaking to wake up to the news that a mural that celebrates Latino/Chicano LGBT culture in the Mission was destroyed yet again, this time by arson,” Campos said.
The mural was defaced with spray paint repeatedly during the month of June. It costs the gallery about $3000 to replace the mural. Gallery staff eventually had the mural printed on vinyl, enabling them to scrub off any spray paint.
But a determined arsonist or group of arsonists destroyed the mural again on Monday.
“They could have set fire not just to the mural, but to the building," Campos said. "I think it’s important to call it out for what it is. It’s an act of hate."
The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the case as a hate crime. Investigators are currently reviewing video footage of this and previous attacks captured by surveillance cameras.
Speakers at the rally emphasized nonviolence, compassion and love. “In the face of violence, the response is healing,” Estela Reyes Garcia, executive director of the Latino health services organization Instituto Familiar de la Raza, said. “We want to rise to the idea of restorative justice.”
Luciano Sagastume, a trans community organizer, lives three blocks from the mural. Sagastume said the mural is personally important because he hardly ever sees depictions of Latino trans men.
When he first saw it, he didn’t believe it.
“The first time I walked by, I told my friend 'I really like how those thorns on that chest kind of look like they could be my surgery scars. That’s so cool, like, I’m kind of there,'" Sagastume said. "And my friend turned to me and she says, 'Luciano, that is a Latino trans man up there. That is you.'”
Henry Pacheco, communications coordinator for Galería de la Raza, said the gallery and mural artist Paul have been subjected to homophobic violent threats on social media.
The gallery does not plan to replace the mural again. Pacheco said leaving the burnt mural standing makes a more powerful statement.
Pacheco said the gallery is grateful for all the support it has received from the community.
“Tonight we are feeling happy and exited that the community came out to support galleria and LGBTQ people," Pacheco said. "Love is always going to conquer hate.”
Galería de la Raza plans to host a community forum on July 18 to further explore the issues surrounding the events of the past few weeks.
Watch this video from KQED's Wendy Goodfriend of Luciano Sagastume speaking at the rally: