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Black Lives Matter mural causes controversy in Rochester

Union Leader Correspondent

July 22. 2016 6:10PM
This is what Beth Wittenberg's mural looked like when it was first finished. Now, the street art has been vandalized numerous times. (Courtesy Photo)

ROCHESTER — Police in Rochester are investigating a series of events that started when a local street artist painted a Black Lives Matter mural on Blackwater Road.

Beth Wittenberg says she created the mural last weekend to bring the issues black people face into the light. Her work depicts a backwards American flag with broken hearts where white stars should be. It originally read "#Black Lives Matter."

What has happened since then has left Wittenberg both determined to spread her message and wary to answer the door. People started spreading her photos of the work on social media, and Wittenberg posted online that she was "bombarded" by those who threatened to take civil and legal action against her.

People have spray painted over the word "Black," even when Wittenberg goes back to replace it. She said she was even verbally and physically threatened one day while she was at the site by a "very angry man in a truck" who started screaming at her about how black people kill cops.

Wittenberg reported the incident to police, and now she is hoping others will start a real conversation in the community about the local racial divide.

"Let's expose the racism in our community," Wittenberg said Friday afternoon.

Police Capt. Gary Boudreau says police are conducting their own investigation into both sides. Since Wittenberg painted her mural on state owned property, she can be charged with criminal mischief. And because state workers will have to go out and cover up the mural, which has now been further vandalized, they will likely ask her to pay restitution.

"This has nothing to do with what was painted," Boudreau explained. "Nobody has the right to damage state property."

Wittenberg says she is willing to face the consequences, and stands by her art.

Crime, law and justice General News Social issues Rochester

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