The same Circle Avenue bridge mural panel that has been defaced twice in the past six months has been vandalized two more times. The “No Human is Illegal” section was found covered by paint on the night of Oct. 4, and by glue and cardboard on the morning of Oct. 12. Previously, the mural was targeted in April and July.
Resident Geoff Binns-Calvey, who keeps the matching paint on hand, repaired the mural all four times and repainted the words.
“I can come here and do this every night,” Binns-Calvey said as he scraped the glue off following Friday night’s defacement.
Resident Betty Alzamora has also been involved since the first incident. She calls the efforts of Binns-Calvey to fix the mural “rapid response.”
“We as a community own the responsibility of being vigilant,” said Alzamora. “We cannot stand by and allow this behavior to be normalized. Not speaking up means you’re being complicit.”
It’s hard not to see a connection, she noted, between the Oct. 4 defacement and the village’s first ever Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
“Your mind goes to dark places,” Alzamora said.
While some residents want to catch the perpetrator, or perpetrators, for punishment, Alzamora says she, too, wants to find out who did it, but for a different reason. “I want to talk to the person who did this. I want to ask why. What are we modeling to kids if we just punish the person who did it without having a conversation?”
Although Alzamora found the response of the village to be slow after the first incident of vandalism, officials acted quickly and with concern after the last two occurrences. Village Administrator Tim Gillian stopped by Saturday morning, Oct. 12, after filling out a police report to talk to Alzamora as she waited for Binns-Calvey to arrive with his paint.
Both Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins and Gillian expressed sadness and frustration about the repeated defacing of the mural.
“It’s extremely disappointing that this particular mural is being targeted. The vandal’s cowardly and unreasonable act does not reflect Forest Park’s inclusive values,” said Hoskins.
Alzamora and Binns-Calvey are considering organizing a team of people to check on the mural every day, so if this happens again it can be fixed as soon as possible.
“Some people might say we’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Alzamora. “But if you leave the molehill alone, it can turn into a range of mountains that will make change insurmountable.”