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A Black Lives Matter mural painted on a street in front of a Martinez courthouse building, already badly faded and now defiled by spilled white paint, is scheduled to be paved over in early October as part of a larger downtown project, Martinez’s city manager said.
The mural, requested by the group Martizians for Black Lives after two white power fliers were found on a sidewalk near the Martinez Detention Facility jail, was approved July 2 and painted two days later by a team of almost 100 volunteers.
Incidents surrounding the mural put Martinez in the national spotlight for a few weeks. A man and a woman defaced it with black paint the same day it was created, and the next day, at the same spot next to the mural, a man was arrested for waving a loaded handgun at a mural defender during an argument.
Two days after that, someone painted “White Lives Matter” on another Martinez street. And again, a few days later, a man was seen on security video apparently photographing a car parked downtown exhibiting messages of equality for Black people and women — and then slashing its tires.
City Manager Eric Figueroa said Wednesday that Justin Gomez of Martizians for Black Lives has since asked twice for permission to repaint the mural where it is, but was denied.
City Councilman Mark Ross said Wednesday night that the paving project provides a “natural and sensible transition point from paint and pavement to policy and procedure” as the city prepares a more formal process through which such public art installations will be evaluated and approved.
As for the mural itself, which Ross strongly supported, and its imminent disappearance, Ross said, “I know that some people will not see it that way, and that others will be delighted by this turn of events.”
A focus of debate
The mural’s existence has been controversial among Martinez locals and Ross said it is the most predominant subject of public discourse in the city since a proposed redevelopment agency pitted citizen against citizen more than a decade ago.
While many welcomed the mural as a gesture of welcoming to residents of color, others see it as divisive. Those various sentiments came out at several previous public hearings, and again Wednesday night as part of a discussion about the formation of the city’s Anti-Racism and Discrimination and Pro Inclusion and Equity Task Force.
Cheryl Buscaglia said the mural has divided Martinez residents.
“Why not encourage our community to be one, instead of allowing a so-called mural to be painted on the streets?” she told the council Wednesday night.
Plans for a permanent Black Lives Matter mural on an outside wall of the Boys and Girls Club of Contra Costa building in Martinez, Buscaglia added, have prompted her to stop doing fundraising for the club.
Nakenya Allen, on the other hand, said the BLM street mural made people of color like herself feel welcome in Martinez for the first time.
“If they really want to be supportive of Black people in this town, I suggest they start listening to us,” Allen said.