The organizer behind a mural that sparked months of discussions with the City of Victoria about censorship says she’s disappointed the mural is being altered.
“We are in the midst of erasing, erasing lived experiences and people’s voices, and also an artist’s work. It’s disappointing. But this is also a step forward,” said Charity Williams.
The mural, painted in August, spells out More Justice, More Peace and has been the center of discussion after Victoria Police Chief Del Manak opposed the acronym ACAB – which stands for All Cops Are Bastards – that was included in one letter.
On Wednesday a group of artists came together to black out the letter that included the acronym. To replace ‘ACAB’ there are now three eagle feathers. The phrase: “This letter has been censored by the City of Victoria influenced by the Victoria Police Department. In doing so, Victoria is contributing to the silencing of Black and Indigenous voices and experiences across this land,” is also to be added.
Williams said she hopes that when people see the mural, they’ll “see the void in justice” and see that justice wasn’t served in this case.
“We can have as many discussions as we want, but that’s what happened. And that’s something that happens over and over and over again, BIPOC voices get silenced when it’s something that folks aren’t comfortable with,” she said.
Earlier this month, Victoria council voted to remove the acronym after a motion brought forward by Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe. After a lengthy debate, it was determined that the acronym would be removed but would be replaced with someone to acknowledge the artist’s experience.
Thorton-Joe said she wasn’t happy with the new changes and was considering bringing forward another motion that would ask council to remove the amended mural.
“As a visible minority, I have encountered racism many times in my life but I’ve always said that I don’t condone discrimination of any kind,” she said on Thursday morning. “I don’t think we can pick and choose what we discriminate against.”
City manager Jocelyn Jenkyns said the changes to the mural are an “honest representation of the artist’s experience,” adding that moving forward she believes the “important message of this mural will continue to inspire conversations.”
VicPD’s community engagement division said the department didn’t feel it would be appropriate to comment until the new letter is completed – “out of respect for the process.”
In August, Manak issued a statement saying that he fully supported the spirit of behind the mural but that by excluding one group through harmful words seemed to “counter the very spirit of the mural itself.”
VicPD was not included in the discussions between the city and the artists.