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Police arrest Rochester woman for painting 'Black Lives Matter' mural on state property

Union Leader Correspondent

July 28. 2016 9:51PM
Police in Rochester arrested the woman who created this "Black Lives Matter" mural on Blackwater Road, which was vandalized and is now painted over. The mural was created on state-owned property. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

ROCHESTER — Police in Rochester have arrested a local street artist who recently painted a "Black Lives Matter" mural on Blackwater Road.

Beth Wittenberg, 50, turned herself in at the police department Wednesday after a warrant was issued for her arrest. Wittenberg was charged with criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, and released on $1,500 personal recognizance bail.

Wittenberg’s mural, which depicted a backwards American flag with broken black hearts where white stars should be, was her way of protesting the way black citizens are treated.

“As a Jewish American, I understand what it means to be prosecuted, enslaved and baked in ovens. We are supposed to learn from our history. We should all be equal under the law, but the sad truth is we are not,” Wittenberg said. “My protest is about giving voice, standing in solidarity with my Black American friends and family to say, ‘Yes, all lives matter, but in this case where we are speaking of the inequity between whites and blacks, Black Lives Matter.’”

Wittenberg said she was verbally and physically threatened one day last week when she was at the site, and people vandalized the work of art by spray painting over it before it was covered with gray paint by state workers. Wittenberg has been fearful for her safety since news of her mural started spreading.

“I’m just an artist; I don’t make policy. My job as an artist is to record history and have commentary on that history — that’s all,” Wittenberg said.

Wittenberg is an award-winning professional artist who has been working in the field for 25 years.

Police Capt. Gary Boudreau said they were made aware of the mural on July 18. Since the mural is located on a bridge overpass for the Spaulding Turnpike, it is on state-owned property and that is why criminal charges are being pursued.

Wittenberg is scheduled to appear at Rochester District Court on Aug. 15.

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