The San Francisco Police Department hopes to figure out who's been repeatedly vandalizing a Mission District mural, by releasing video footage of an arson attack on the artwork and asking for public assistance to identify the suspect.
As previously reported, the "Por Vida" mural depicting gay, lesbian, and transgender Chicanos at 24th and Bryant Streets has been defaced four times since it went up on June 13.
Most recently, SFPD spokesperson Officer Carlos Manfredi says, on June 29 at 11:10 p.m., the suspect depicted in this video tried to set it afire. As you can see in the videos above and below, the suspect, described by Manfredi as "male, 6’00”, 190 Lbs., wearing a black sweatshirt, black pants, white tennis shoes, white gloves and a black cloth covering the lower half of his face," squirts some sort of flammable liquid on the mural then sets it ablaze.
He was "last seen running southbound on Bryant towards 25th" Street, Manfredi says.
Previous to the arson attack, the mural was defaced with spray paint three times. Some, like Martha Ruiz de la Peña, who owns an organic grocery near the mural, blames hatred of LGBTQ people for the vandalism.
“I think it’s hatred by some homophobic people,” she told the Chron.
“Just when you think people are more open, this happens. It’s sad.”
However, according to Barrio2Barrio, described by SF Weekly as "one of the most outspoken critics of the mural," the issue isn't homophobia, it's appropriation.
"It's not saying that there are no gay people that are gang members. That's like saying there's no gay mechanics...What's being depicted here is an appropriation."
"The majority of homegirls that I got — they look like dudes, " Barrio2Barrio says. "They're butch lesbians. It's a machismo culture." What you won't see in that culture is two gay cholos publicly embracing each other. That's unrealistic, Barrio2Barrio says, and a sign that outsiders — such as the Los Angeles-based artists who created the mural — feel "entitled" to cholo lifestyle "just because they're brown."
Barrio2Barrio says there's been a resurgence of interest in the cholo aesthetic and that it profits off the good while ignoring the bad. "Look at Mike Giant," he says, referring to the popular tattoo and graffiti artist. "He does nothing but cholo, and he makes bank on it. Everybody from Gwen Stefani to Fergie to Justin Bieber's girlfriend is trying to be cholo now."
Of course, we won't actually know the vandal's motive unless he's identified and asked. That's why Manfredi urges anyone who recognizes the suspect to contact Sergeant Pete Shields, SFPD's Lead Investigator of the Special Investigations Division at (415) 553-1133. You can also call SFPD's Anonymous Tip Line at (415) 575-4444, or Text-a-Tip at TIP411, just put "SFPD" at the beginning of the message.