Two San Francisco-area residents accused of painting over a “Black Lives Matter” mural are facing hate crime charges.
Nicole Anderson, 42, and David Nelson, 53, both of Martinez, were charged Tuesday with three misdemeanor counts, including a hate crime violation, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
The July 4 incident was captured on video that shows a woman splattering black paint on the yellow block letters on a downtown Martinez street and then using a roller to cover some of the letters in the mural, which was city approved.
In the video, which had previously been shared on social media and by the Martinez Police Department, a man can be heard saying, “the narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism, it’s a lie.”
The woman painting says “keep this [expletive] in New York. This is not happening in my town.”
Both are white, and the man is wearing what appears to be a “Make America Great Again” hat and a shirt with the words Trump and “Four More Years.”
Police confirmed that the two people seen in that video are Anderson and Nelson, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said. Anderson painted over part of the mural, and Nelson “directly aided in the alleged criminal conduct,” the district attorney’s office said.
Both are charged with violation of civil rights; vandalism under $400; and possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti; which are all misdemeanors, according to the district attorney’s office.
Police have said that the mural was completed on July 4, and that both went to the mural with the purpose of painting over it.
If convicted, they face up to a year in county jail.
Phone messages to numbers that appear linked to Anderson or Nelson in public records were not immediately returned Tuesday night. It was not immediately clear if either had an attorney.
Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice and demonstrations calling for police reforms have been held across the country following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
“We must address the root and byproduct of systemic racism in our country. The Black Lives Matter movement is an important civil rights cause that deserves all of our attention,” County District Attorney Diana Becton said in Tuesday’s statement.
“The mural completed last weekend was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country,” Becton said. “We must continue to elevate discussions and actually listen to one another in an effort to heal our community and country.”
Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder said in a statement Tuesday that permission was granted to the group Martizians for Black Lives to paint the mural on July 2.
That request was made after what the mayor described as “anti-black hateful flyers” that threatened harm against Black Lives Matter supporters were found downtown on June 27.
“Approval of the use of our streets sends a message to all that African-Americans and other people of color are equal members of our community and hateful rhetoric will be actively rejected by our City,” the mayor said.
Martinez is a city of around 38,000 in Contra Costa County, northeast of San Francisco.