On Friday, January 8, a pride mural painted on the side of local Bellefonte business Jake’s Cards and Games was vandalized by members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front, a group that, according to Statecollege.com, formed in 2017 after a break-away from a similar organization, Vanguard America, following the “Unite the Right” rally that occured in Charlottesville, Virginia that year.
According to Statecollege.com, Patriot Front is classified as a hate group. The stencil images left on the wall depicted the words “conquered, not stolen,” in reference to the acquisition of what is not United States land, as well as a link to the group’s website.
The vandalization is believed to have been part of the aftermath of the Capitol riot that occured in Washington, D.C. just days before, on January 6. Similar images have also been found throughout State College in the past few weeks.
The event was addressed in this week’s Bellefonte Borough Council meeting. According to Lock Haven’s The Express, Council President Joanne Tosti-Vasey stated, “unlawful actions that we saw last week should not be occurring in the United States of America and have no place in Bellefonte Borough..Vandalism occurred in Bellefonte in the wake of the Capitol riot. It was heart-lifting to see our community members come together to repaint a vandalized Pride flag mural in downtown Bellefonte. We thank you for your display of respect and sense of community.” Tosti-Vasey and Council Vice President Randy Branchbill reminded the public that while free speech and peaceful protests are permitted, vandalism and other forms of aggressive protest are not and will be dealt with accordingly. The crime and its perpetrators are part of an ongoing investigation.
On Saturday, January 9, members of the Bellefonte community came together to repaint the wall. According to Statecollege.com, volunteers assembled following a Facebook post by Bryce Taylor, the original painter of the mural, began the repainting around 1 p.m., and finished in less than an hour. The group included members of the Bellefonte LGBTQ+ community, as well as others. The group was determined to combat the hateful message of the vandalism with positivity and unity.
According to Statecollege.com, Taylor responded, “I’m overwhelmed..this was validation for everything I’ve been talking about, everything I’ve been fighting for. It makes me really emotional. I feel loved today. We all feel loved today…Maybe this is the anchor that we need to bring ourselves back, remind us what’s important, remind us we’re not alone.”