HUMBOLDT — As Derek Pasitney and Mitch Babin cleaned up racist graffiti from a mural they painted in downtown Humboldt, they weren’t alone.
Others were there with a message: “Nazis go home. Nazis out.”
Mike Cleveland organized the response while the two artists fixed their work on Sept. 5.
“When you see a bunch of swastikas and SS symbols show up just down the road, you’ve got to show up because if nobody shows up and shuts it down, it normalizes it,” he said. “These guys don't go away unless you actually show up and do something about it.”
The vandalism, which was done in the night between Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, also had the words, “It’s okay 2 be white,” “Heil Hitler,” and “SSkinheadSS.”
The mural itself is just over a year old, having been completed on Aug. 19, 2019.
“It’s always disappointing to see artwork get destroyed, but the fact that it had this racial overtone was pretty disappointing for sure,” Babin said. “We just wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to get out here quickly and take care of it.”
Cleveland said he was angry and livid when he learned of the vandalism.
“This is Nazi symbolism. I don't care if it's a bunch of dumbass school kids doing this. It normalizes it. I don't want to see this in my neighbourhood. I don't want to see this in my neck of the woods,” he said.
“We fought a war over it. 60 million people died over this. I'm not going to let it repeat itself.”
Cleveland said the symbolism of the graffiti deprives people of their humanity, their power.
“They spray painted a doorway where people of colour work. They enter that doorway when they come to work,” he said.
“You tell me what that tells them when they come into work.”
Cleveland said he’s asking for the City of Humboldt and MLA Donna Harpauer to condemn the vandalism.
Babin said the reaction and support he and Pasitney have received is pretty cool.
“We were actually pretty overwhelmed with the response we got from people in town,” he said.
“A lot of people sending messages and commenting on Facebook posts and stuff made it very clear that nobody in town here wants to put up with that kind of stuff. It was reassuring for sure.”
It took around 15 minutes to clean up the graffiti from the mural and nearby walls.
“I don't think they did it on purpose but they picked a couple areas that aren't that difficult for us to clean up,” Babin said.
Babin said there's no place for such graffiti and racism in any community.
“Let's get rid of it now and let's start the conversation, get the people together in the community who do care. It will make a difference.”