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Paint the town in love: Artists cover boarded-up downtown businesses with murals following days of protests

Murals cover plywood businesses put up at West Broadway and First Avenue in San Diego.
Murals cover up the plywood that many businesses put up along their doors and windows at the corner of West Broadway and First Avenue on June 8, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Artists’ murals call for peace, unity and justice for victims of police brutality

A group of artists from across San Diego County recently painted more than 22 murals on boarded-up businesses in downtown San Diego to beautify the neighborhood and show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The colorful murals along E Street on businesses and Broadway hotels and restaurants depict images of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. There are also messages calling for unity, peace and justice for other victims of police brutality.

Businesses boarded-up windows and doors with plywood in anticipation of planned protests in downtown last week.

East Village resident Danny Avitia called on local artists to volunteer to paint murals downtown to beautify the neighborhood and to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The “Paint the Town with Love” event organized by Avitia took place on Sunday.

Murals cover plywood on businesses at  West Broadway and First Avenue in San Diego.
Murals cover up the plywood that many businesses put up along their doors and windows at the corner of West Broadway and First Avenue on June 8, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Art does heal,” said organizer Avitia. “It was vital that we got some positive messaging out there.”

About 50 artists and volunteers participated on Sunday, Avitia said. Although the murals will be taken down as businesses re-open, Avitia said they plan to auction off the murals and donate the proceeds to Black Lives Matter San Diego and to businesses that were vandalized.

Artist Jazza-Rae Curne’s mural is of George Floyd surrounded by small blue flowers and the words “BLM” on the bottom.

“I wanted to portray him in perfect peace,” Curne said, adding that painting the mural gave her a sense of belonging to the movement and an opportunity to share her work with others.

Curne said she has not had the opportunity to participate in protests, so painting the mural was a way to be a part of the movement calling for police reform and racial justice. She said the announcement that police departments have decided to no longer use the carotid restrain, a controversial neck hold that cuts off blood flow and can render someone unconscious, is a start, but activists need to continue calling for changes to policing.

Fidel “Tito” Arce, third generation owner of Grab and Go Subs on C Street, said the sandwich shop was vandalized two weeks ago, during a protest downtown. He said rocks thrown into the shop broke two windows and the door.

Arce put the boards upthe next day but that has affected business, he said, because people think the shop is closed. He said he is taking down the boards this weekend and plans to give the mural to the organizers.

The mural outside Grab and Go Subs is of a teal-colored fist surrounded by flowers.

Avitia said he organized the art event, but the idea came from State Assembly candidate Sarah Davis. He said dozens of businesses across the county have reached out to him to organize similar painting events.

Bright murals along La Mesa Boulevard cover up many windows that had been compromised last month.
Bright murals along La Mesa Boulevard cover up many windows that had been compromised or in need of protection after a violent rampage through the city followed a peaceful protest on May 30.
(Karen Pearlman / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Artists in the city of La Mesa painted murals there in early June after businesses were vandalized after a protest.


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