Community members came together on Saturday afternoon in downtown Bellefonte to quickly repaint a Pride flag mural on the side of Jake’s Cards and Games that was vandalized on Friday with messages from the same white supremacist group that left stickers all over downtown State College this week.
Bryce Taylor, who originally painted the mural along the narrow alley last June and owns the shop at 131 W. High St., posted on the store’s Facebook page on Friday that he planned to repaint it over the next few days, asking anyone who would like to help to let him know.
What he got was an outpouring of community support. Dozens of people — all wearing masks because of COVID-19 — showed up by 1 p.m. on Saturday, taking turns in small groups with brushes and paint to restore the mural in less than an hour.
‘I’m overwhelmed,’ Taylor said. ‘This was validation for everything I’ve been talking about, everything I’ve been fighting for. It makes me feel really emotional. I feel loved today. We all feel loved today.’
Residents repaint a mural on the side of Jake’s Cards and Games, 131 W. High St. in Bellefonte, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, after it was vandalized. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com
The graffiti was discovered on Friday afternoon and Taylor said he thinks it may have been done ‘in broad daylight.’ Someone had used stencils and spray paint to deface the mural with the website of the white supremacist group Patriot Front in numerous places as well as an image of the United States with one of the group’s slogans, ‘Not stolen, conquered.’
Stickers with messages from the same group were found on property throughout downtown State College on Thursday night. State College police are investigating.
Some of those stickers also were placed on public property in downtown Bellefonte.
‘It’s all part of what happened in State College,’ Taylor said. ‘It was the same group, same message. They blanketed our town with their propaganda.’
Patriot Front, a white supremacist group that calls for American fascism and white nationalism, formed after breaking away from a similar organization, Vanguard America, following the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies it as a hate group,
In 2019, ProPublica called Patriot Front ‘perhaps the most active white supremacist group in the nation.’ Its organization occurs largely in private Internet communications, which BuzzFeed News reported in October ‘reveal a sophisticated network of extremists who are training for violence.’
Dozens of community members turned out on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, to repair a mural on the side of Jake’s Cards and Games, 131 W. High St. in Bellefonte, after it was vandalized with messages from a white supremacist group. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com
‘It’s just shocking that in this day and age racist hate groups are able to do whatever they want,’ said Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins, who helped with repainting the mural.
Higgins said he believes it is no coincidence that the graffiti and stickers came shortly after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by extremist supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, some of whom carried racist and anti-Semitic imagery as they sought to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden as the next president.
The Capitol riot and the local incidents, Higgins said, were triggered by Republican lawmakers’ continued claims of election fraud and irregularities that have been roundly rejected by state and federal courts.
‘Every four years or in some cases every two years all of your state and local elected officials take an oath to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions,’ he said. ‘And we’re also supposed to take an oath to serve all citizens, and that is regardless of age, disability, color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, anybody. You are supposed to serve all the citizens of your elected area, not just some of them.’
He added that it was heartening to see community members come together so quickly to repaint the mural.
‘It’s so wonderful to see the community come together on literally just a couple hours notice,’ he said. ‘I want to thank the members of the community of Bellefonte for showing up and supporting their fellow citizens. We all need to live together.’
After thinking for years about creating a mural on the side of his business as a beautification project for the dark, narrow alley, Taylor finally went ahead with painting the Pride flag last year.
‘It was also born of our experience going through the pandemic, the shutdown,’ Taylor said. ‘I painted it in June. We were shut down and everybody was really just coming back to life. So I wanted it to be like a proof of life almost, a beacon to the community. That’s cheesy but I wanted to say, ‘Hey there’s something to get up for. There’s something to come back out for.’ There’s lots of messages, but it was really just a message of pull together, get up and we’ll get through this.’
Jake’s Cards and Games owner Bryce Taylor thanked volunteers on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, for helping repaint a mural on the side of his Bellefonte store after it was vandalized with messages from a white supremacist group. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com
Taylor reported the graffiti to Bellefonte police, who he said ‘did everything they are supposed to.’ Another person independently reported it to the FBI, Taylor said.
‘I hate to say this, but the simple truth is this was a hate crime,’ he said. ‘We need to deal with that. We need to fix that. It’s never going to be reported as that. It’s never going to be talked about as that, but it’s absolutely a hate crime.’
He said, however, that he is proud to see the community come together in response.
‘We needed this. I think we needed this a lot,’ he said. ‘This week has been insane. Maybe this is that anchor that we need to bring ourselves back, remind us what’s important, remind us we’re not alone.’