SAN FRANCISCO—On June 30, crime tape surrounded a mural located in the Mission District within the Galeria de la Raza. The mural, named “Por Vida”, celebrates LGBT and Latino culture, and has been defaced and vandalized three times since it went up early June. The mural had been spray-painted in the past, it was recently burned. Ani Rivera, executive director of Galeria de la Raza, had planned to have the mural on display through the end of July.

This photo shows the damage to "Por Vida" after being set on fire.
This photo shows the damage to “Por Vida” after being set on fire.

Rivera released a statement regarding the incident: “This is not just about the LGBT community — it is about all of our communities locally here that we represent. It is really challenging to see them in fear and to see them being really vulnerable. This has been the signature of somebody that’s trying to quiet us and put us back in the closet, and it’s not going to happen, and now more than ever we’re going to come back from this stronger, and say this work matters.”

Officer Albie Esparza, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, said the suspect in the arson is male, standing about 5 feet and 9 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds. He was wearing a black sweatshirt, black pants, white tennis shoes and white gloves. His face was covered by a black cloth. An accelerant as well as an ignition source were found at the scene, and are being processed for evidence.

Prior incidents involved two suspects involved. San Francisco police said they are looking into the crimes. Rivera said that she’s viewed surveillance videos of the two most recent vandalism attacks against the mural. In the first incident, two people damaged the image. In the other, it shows one person defacing the mural while two people casually walk by. Rivera holds a personal suspicion of those behind the attacks, but does not wish to elaborate details with the public.

The priority of Rivera and her team is to provide security for people within the building that are LGBT, and a way for those affected by this incident to talk about it, such as community forums. The decision to replace the mural has not been made. A current option being considered by the gallery is to leave the destroyed mural up, and involve the community artists by allowing them to walk by and write positive messages on it.

The gallery is accepting donations to help with repairs.