Two Martinez, California, residents have been charged with committing a hate crime after they were seen on video painting over a Black Lives Matter mural outside the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse.
Per a statement from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, David Nelson, 53, and Nicole Anderson, 42 (whose name was also spelled as “Nichole” in the release), have each been charged with three misdemeanor counts, including violation of civil rights, vandalism, and possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti.
Authorities say on July 4, “defendant Anderson covered up a Black Lives Matter mural with black paint,” and that “Nelson directly aided in the alleged criminal conduct. The incident was captured on video by witnesses.”
“Nelson and Anderson arrived at the scene of the mural after it was completed with paint supplies. Anderson started to paint over the yellow letters ‘B’ and ‘L’ in the word ‘Black,’” the statement added. “She used black paint and a large paint roller to do so. The video has been shared widely by witnesses and shared on social media.”
When asked about their actions, Nelson — who is seen wearing a “Four More Years” shirt and a “Make America Great Again” hat — is heard saying in the video, “We’re sick of this narrative... The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism, it’s a lie.”
Anderson is also heard making the remark, “This is not happening in my town.”
On Tuesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton defended the charges, saying in a statement, “We must address the root and by-product of systemic racism in our country.”
“The Black Lives Matter movement is an important civil rights cause that deserves all of our attention,” Becton continued. “The mural completed last weekend was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country. We must continue to elevate discussions and actually listen to one another in an effort to heal our community and country.”
The prosecutor’s office also confirmed that the city of Martinez had approved a permit for the mural, which was completed July 4.
If convicted on all charges, Nelson and Anderson face up to a year in prison. It is unclear if either suspect has entered a plea.