FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — A Black Lives Matter mural will not be painted in downtown Merced right now, after emotionally charged public outcry during Monday’s city council meeting.
The council voted 5-2 against moving forward with the proposal of painting the big yellow letters at Canal and 16th Streets.
The debate continued until the early morning hours Tuesday after council members listened to about an hour’s worth of public comment voicemails.
“I oppose this. I think it’s horrible. All lives matter,” said one woman.
“It’s destructive. I promise you if you allow it to go downtown you’re going to bring chaos. It’s going to be unsafe. You’re going to have a lot of bad things happen,” said another caller.
“If I could move out of Merced County I would,” Jerome Raspberry of the Merced NAACP said.
Raspberry presented the proposal and said he’s very disappointed with his city.
The Merced Arts and Cultural Advisory Commission, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others back the proposal which was presented to council on August 3.
The public is now dived on the issue. Raspberry said he’s been the target of racial slurs and physical threats because of the project, which is the opposite of what he’d like to promote.
“It’s all about humanitarian work, humanitarian efforts and how we as Merced City are so far, far behind in that effort,” he said.
Council members were also divided on the issue ultimately voting not to move forward.
Some said they fear people are seeing this as a political movement. Anthony Martinez was one of two votes in favor of the mural.
“As a city we do not benefit hating on each other over this project. As a city we benefit by being able to come together on things,” he said.
Other council members suggested painting messages of unity or ones depicting all cultures.
Raspberry said he personally is going to step back, but the organizations will continue to push for the mural. He said right now they’re waiting to hear back on what their other options are moving forward.