What started off as a typical afternoon stroll for Jesse Wilder, ended in a late-night hunt to remove an assortment of racist, hateful stickers found on Broadway light poles in Alamitos Beach on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Wilder, a local musician, said he first noticed the stickers while walking back to his apartment from his neighborhood Rite Aid, next to Bixby Park. The first sticker he saw plastered to a lamp post on Hermosa Avenue and Broadway depicted figures of a black man and white woman, styled like the gender symbols you see on restroom doors, with a slash overlaid on top. It read: “Once you go black… we don’t want you back.”

He peeled off the sticker and continued his walk, only to find several more, some accompanied by the Nazi SS insignia drawn on top of what appeared to be a stylized swastika. After finding five that afternoon, he decided to double back in the evening, extending his search on Broadway between Esperanza and Kennebec avenues and found another style of sticker, this one featuring a Celtic cross, a common symbol used by white supremacist groups, that read: “WHITE PRIDE WORLD WIDE.”

Another sticker Wilder discovered down Broadway depicted a Celtic cross with the words, “White Pride World Wide.” Photo by Jesse Wilder.

Wilder said he took down a total of 12 stickers with the racist and hateful messages that day—all that he could find after scouring the area.

“I took them down because they should not be here,” he said. “It’s a hate crime… I’ve never tolerated that and it just makes me so sad.”

Social media posts Wilder made on Instagram and Facebook after the discovery were met with shock and anger from locals, as well as gratitude for removing the stickers. Wilder said he has plans to check out other areas in the city with high foot traffic, like Second Street and Downtown. A search of Retro Row on Monday came up empty.

Wilder noted that seeing any sort of racist signage in the city would be unusual, but discovering the hateful messages seemed especially strange in Alamitos Beach, an area with a strong LGBTQ+ community. The stretch of Broadway between Orange and Cherry avenues is home to gay bars and rainbow crosswalks painted at Broadway’s intersections with Junipero, Cherry, Falcon and Orange avenues.

“It was really surprising to us because this community is very pledged to equal rights in general, so it was really disappointing,” he said.

Jesse Wilder holds some of the stickers he took down in Alamitos Beach. Photo by Jesse Wilder.

Wilder said he wasn’t sure how long the stickers had been up, noting that, these days, he generally doesn’t venture outside except to get groceries and pick up his children. But, he estimated that the stickers hadn’t been there long since he could easily peel them off. Curious to see if the stickers were an original design or mass-produced, Wilder said he rooted around Google and found the “When you go black, we don’t want you back” sticker for sale online.

“You can buy a 20 pack of these stickers for $3,” he said.

A Long Beach native and long-time musician, Wilder is a well-known fixture in the city’s music scene, notably for his concert series, Album Attack which re-emerged after a five-year hiatus, last year. Through the years playing music Wilder said he always made it a point to surround himself with people who shared his values of tolerance and compassion, especially with his bandmates. Back when band flyers were a useful form of advertisement, Wilder said he would print in bold, capital letters, “NO RACISTS” and “NO HOMOPHOBES” on his paper ads seeking new players.

Ultimately, Wilder said he took down the hateful messages because it seemed like the natural thing to do and hopes that anyone else who might come across them does the same.