Racist graffiti in support of Dylann Roof found on Ann Arbor mural

Monday, September 18, 2017 - 1:51pm

Racist graffiti was discovered on a mural Saturday night in downtown Ann Arbor.

The Ann Arbor mural, which is displayed in an alleyway of the 600 block of East Liberty Street, was emblazoned with the words, "Free Dylann Roof, I Hate N------." The graffiti was found less than 12 hours before LSA sophomore Trayvon Stearns realized his dorm room door had been branded with a racial slur yesterday.  

The graffiti is in reference to white supremacist and mass murderer Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 and is now on death row.

A poster that reads “Free Dylan Roof” was also discovered on campus Saturday morning. There is no known connection between the poster and the mural graffiti.

Ann Arbor resident Mary Thiefels, who designed the mural in 2014, told MLive she was deeply disturbed by the vandalism.

"My heart was broken, in the fact that that is an ideology and a sentiment that people feel strongly enough to share with the world," Theifels said. "At the same time, things like this create dialogue that is so important and so relevant to right now. ... Who knows if it will inspire a productive conversation or if it will just create more divide."

Theifels and her neighbor Crystal Conway, also of Ann Arbor, washed the graffiti off the mural on Sunday morning. It took about an hour to clean, but by 12:20 p.m., the slur was gone from the brick wall. The women wanted to get the mural cleaned as quickly as possible after the incident, so as not to give the vandal any sense of satisfaction.

The Ann Arbor police wrote an incident report on the graffiti Sunday afternoon, according to MLive. No further details are available from the police yet.

Theifels will have to repaint the portion of her mural that was damaged by the graffiti and its subsequent removal. Other murals of hers have been tagged by graffiti before, but she said it has never been quite like this.

"Every project like this out in the community is subject to interpretation, to criticism, to vandalism," she said to MLive. "It's definitely been hard to swallow, but also it's making a very important point that hate speech is real. The lid is off."

Antagonistic graffiti has become a common theme in Ann Arbor in recent months. In addition to the two incidents this weekend, swastikas were spray-painted on an Ann Arbor skate park in August, and anti-Latino graffiti was found on the Rock earlier this month.

Community members are upset by this recent trend of hate. Twitter user Jennifer Cosey responded to the Black Student Union’s tweet about the incident.

“I want to support those targeted by this hate,” Cosey tweeted. “Please let me know what I can do.”

Others tweeted about the graffiti, saying it was “Highly unacceptable.” And some users just seemed tired of things like this happening, like David Erik Nelson, who tweeted “*sighs*.”