Long Beach officials condemn vandalism of Martin Luther King statue

A worker on a crane trains a hose on a statue
A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in Long Beach is power-washed after being vandalized with hate symbols on July 2, 2021. A photo posted to social media shows the civil rights icon’s statue sprayed with what appears to be a swastika and SS Bolts.

A chorus of Long Beach officials this week joined a wave of community blowback against racist vandalism of a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. over the holiday weekend and asked for stepped-up surveillance of the area.

Police responded to a report of a black swastika spray-painted onto the statue of the civil rights leader in the city’s eponymous park about 3:15 p.m. Friday. A city cleaning crew removed the graffiti that day, said Allison Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department.

The vandalism elicited condemnation in the city over the weekend, as community leaders and elected officials denounced the act and police launched a hate crime investigation.

“I know that for all of us, Dr. King is a hero and an inspiration, he stands for justice, stands for bringing people together and certainly for so many ... young people in our city, that is a very special, in many ways sacred, place for the city,” Mayor Robert Garcia said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.


He added: “We are very aware that the vandalism, the desecration that happened, is hateful — it’s unacceptable, it’s disgusting, and it should bother every single person in our community and in our city.”

Hate crimes reported to California law enforcement rose 31% in the last year, according to a report the state attorney general released a week ago. Hate crimes against Black people, which constituted a majority of racially motivated attacks last year, increased by 88%; anti-Latino crimes rose 38%; and attacks against Asians were up by 107%, according to the report.

Long Beach Councilmember Suely Saro said law enforcement would ramp up a community policing effort in the area, including adding a camera trailer and installing a new camera system at the park.

The council members’ comments followed a “Stand for Peace Rally” on Saturday organized by the local AOC7 Neighborhood Group and attended by a multiracial group of community members, including Assistant Police Chief Wally Hebeish and Cmdr. Ty Burford. One participant held a sign reading, “No Room for Hate in Long Beach.”

“It was an ugly image, but what I saw on Saturday was an image of unity,” Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said. “We need to make sure that the dignity that the King monument and all of our monuments deserve is reinforced in our city. We strongly condemn this act of hate and we stand for unity in Long Beach.”