'Unfortunate mistake': SF Public Works apologizes for painting over 'Black Lives Matter' mural

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Bernal Rock as many know it, has become a public message board. For the past week the message has been "Black Lives Matter" but overnight it has been tagged and painted over multiple times.

"We've done tributes to multiple victims of police violence on this rock including Alex Nieto who was killed on this very hill in 2014 and people have painted over those messages and memories. Anyway people want to call it, that's hatred," said artist, Kseniya Makarova.

Tuesday morning a Bernal Heights resident recorded a San Francisco Public Works employee painting over the rock after "receiving community complaints."

VIDEO: SF Public Works employee paints over "BLM" message on Bernal Rock
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Tuesday morning a Bernal Heights resident recorded a San Francisco Public Works employee painting over the rock after "receiving community complaints."



Tuesday is the sixth time, Artists Kseniya Makarova and Micah Rivera have painted the "BLM" message on the rock in less than a week.

Pictured is Bernal Rock in San Francisco, Calif. with Black Lives Matter message painted on it.

Pictured is Bernal Rock in San Francisco, Calif. with Black Lives Matter message painted on it.



"So what? Some people were so uncomfortable with black lives that are going to complain and the city is going to send someone to paint this over? The city has never painted over this rock before. I'm really dismayed," said Makarova.

"It's about memorializing people that are losing their lives. We are asking this community to invest in black success," said Rivera.

"I'm trying to keep my cool. I'm so angry that this is happening. I can't believe the city and county of San Francisco would use tax dollars to be complicit in the erasure of this vitality important message," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen who represents the Bernal Heights neighborhood.

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In a statement to ABC7 News, the acting director of San Francisco Public Works apologized, calling it a mistake.

"To be clear, it was not done in an attempt to silence people's anger, sadness and frustration over police brutality and institutional racism. I have reached out to the person who painted the mural to offer my sincere apology and assurance that we would not be removing her work from the boulder again."

Some parents are using this as a teaching opportunity and painting their own rocks.

"Black lives matter because it's not just white lives but every live matters. They are all people," said 8-year-old Gia Carpenter.

8-year-old Gia Carpenter painted rocks to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

8-year-old Gia Carpenter painted rocks to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.



As for these artists their plan is to keep painting over the hate.

"What do you hope this accomplishes? I hope people see that they have to do something. When I started doing it I never thought this would become this big thing. I was just painting a rock," said Makarova.

Here's the full statement from DPW:

A San Francisco Public Works employee on our graffiti abatement crew, responding to a 311 service request, painted out a Black Lives Matter mural on a boulder in Bernal Heights this morning. This was an extremely unfortunate mistake that never should have happened.

San Francisco Public Works stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and we join people across our country and world in grief and anger at our local and national systems that perpetrate violence against Black people and people of color.

The painting out of the mural was a mistake. To be clear, it was not done in an attempt to silence people's anger, sadness and frustration over police brutality and institutional racism. I have reached out to the person who painted the mural to offer my sincere apology and assurance that we would not be removing her work from the boulder again. We also are offering her paint.

Public Works, along with all other City departments, is working with the Office of Racial Equity to advance a citywide racial equity framework that addresses the history of structural and institutional racism in San Francisco government's policies and practices.

Public Works commits to doing the difficult work of examining how racism has impacted our organization and the communities we serve. We strive to build a department that responds to these systems of oppression, both internally and externally, and erases racial disparities in the workplace and in how we provide services to San Francisco's diverse communities.


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