Over 300 community members rallied before Galería de la Raza, an art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission district, on Wednesday where an LGBT mural depicting two gay couples and a Latino trans man has been defaced three times in the last month.
The artist from the Los Angeles-based Maricón Collective had finished repainting the mural for a second time before someone attempted to set the wall on fire Monday night, endangering the lives of the building’s inhabitants. This happened a day after San Francisco celebrated its largest Pride event in history.
“In the face of the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality and the joyous Pride celebration we had, waking up the next day and seeing this was incredibly painful,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos before the crowd.
He and several community leaders spoke at the gathering, sharing words of anger, pain, sadness and, ultimately, love for those who have shown their support. Many speakers spoke of the need to remain united.
“We cannot let this violent act be a distraction for our community,” urged Ani Rivera, director of the Galería.
“We must come together to retain our history and regain our space. Ten thousand people have been displaced from the Mission—8,000 of them Latino—and we cannot let this be a distraction,” added Rivera. She was referencing the fight that many community organizations are currently engaged in to get the San Francisco City Council to pass a moratorium on the development of luxury housing in the area.
Monday’s hate crime also comes after at least seven predominantly Black churches went up in flames throughout the South, each since the shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina.
Mount Zion AME, one of the churches that caught fire this past week, had previously been burned to the ground by members of the Ku Klux Klan in a rash of church fires that touched more than 600 mostly Black churches across the South in 1995.
Mount Zion was within driving distance of the church where the nine worshipers were murdered.
Among the speakers at the Galería de la Raza was Rev. Richard Smith, a clergyman from St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, who also stressed the importance of unity within the community.
“Racism and homophobia all come from the same beast,” said Rev. Smith, linking the acts of arson. “We have to deal with the same hatred here in the Bay as they do in the South and it all has to do with how we come together to deal with it.”
“Too many moms and dads have shed tears seeing their kids get killed or sent to prison or deported. But we’ve stood together—and strongly so—since the beginning. It is important for us to stay together still,” added Rev. Smith.
San Francisco police are currently investigating the hate crime as the Galería had installed surveillance cameras along the mural after it was vandalized the first time.