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San Diego police chief, mayor ask for leads after Black Lives Matter banners vandalized

News conference at University Christian Church
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, right, speaks at University Christian Church.
(John Gastaldo)

The vandalism at a nightclub and the University Christian Church in the Hillcrest neighborhood was discovered Jan. 24

Standing in front of a church in the Hillcrest neighborhood where a vandal defaced a Black Lives Matter banner, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, Mayor Todd Gloria and others asked the public Wednesday to help identify a “person of interest.”

Hoping to generate leads, police released a photo of the person — an image obtained from a surveillance camera at Rich’s nightclub, where a banner with the message “Black Lives Still Matter” was also vandalized.

San Diego police released images of a "person of interest"
San Diego police released images of the person believed to have vandalized a Black Lives Matter banner at University Christian Church.
(San Diego Police Department)

The banners at the club and University Christian Church were splattered with pink paint last month. The surveillance footage shows the unidentified person outside of Rich’s just before 5 a.m. Jan. 24.

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“What is truly heartbreaking is that this vandalism is emblematic of a deep divide in our country, where some people do not believe that Black lives matter or that LGBTQ+ lives have value,” said the Rev. Caleb Lines, senior pastor at University Christian Church.

In a show of solidarity, Nisleit, Gloria and others condemned the vandalism, which police were investigating as a hate crime. Other community members and elected leaders included City Atty. Mara Elliott and San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Lopez.

“I’m asking — I’m actually pleading with the community to help us,” Nisleit said. “We need to stop hate.”

He and others sent a message that hateful acts will not be tolerated.

“Let me be very clear. It may take a little longer than we want, but we’ll get you and we’ll hold you responsible for what you do,” Gloria said. “Because this does not stand in San Diego.”

The mayor and City Councilman Stephen Whitburn said the vandalism violated a sense of safety in a welcoming neighborhood that is a refuge for diverse communities.

“Let us also acknowledge that for too long the Black community, which is an integral part of the LGBTQ community, has been left out of the conversation,” said Whitburn, whose district includes Hillcrest. “That has contributed to instances of racism from within the LGBTQ community, and there is no place for that either.”

He called for unity.

“We need to recognize that when one community is attacked, it is an attack on all of us,” he said.

Standing in front of a new Black Lives Matter banner hung in front of his church, Lines thanked the community for an outpouring of love and support in the wake of the vandalism.

Vandalized Black Lives Matter banner
A Black Lives Matter banner at University Christian Church was vandalized with paint last month.
(University Christian Church)

Early Wednesday, six bright-colored doors that adorned the front entrance of the church were torn off their pillars. It was a repeat of an incident that happened just days before the church’s Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized.

By the start of the media briefing Wednesday, the doors had been erected once again. A word was pegged to each door. Together they read: “God’s doors are open to all.”

Anyone with information about the vandalism was asked to call the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000.

Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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