City Council could approve $5,000 reward to find those responsible for vandalizing MLK statue

Long Beach could soon offer reward money to aid in the search for whoever defaced the Martin Luther King Jr. statue earlier this month with the City Council voting on a $5,000 reward at its Tuesday night meeting.

The reward is being requested by Councilwoman Suely Saro, who represents the area of the city that includes Martin Luther King Jr. Park where the statue was spray painted with a swastika and what appeared to be SS bolts earlier this month.

The $5,000 could add to the $3,000 already pledged by the Anti-Defamation League to assist with the investigation. Saro is requesting that the city’s reward comes from the general fund.

“Currently, the police department has no suspect description or workable leads,” Saro wrote in her request. “The city of Long Beach would like to enlist the help of the public by offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of a suspect(s).”

Police believe the statue was defaced sometime before 3:18 p.m. on July 2, which was when Long Beach Police Department officers were dispatched to the park after the graffiti was reported. City workers removed the graffiti but not before community members took photos and circulated them on social media. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime by the LBPD.

Hate crimes are down in Long Beach but up across the state with a large increase in hate crimes targeting Black people, according to an annual report from the state.

Residents held a peace rally at the park the day after the graffiti was discovered with residents sharing the pain the act had caused while calling for unity. Several members of the City Council denounced the act at last week’s council meeting, the first held since the statue was vandalized. Saro’s item, which was added to this week’s agenda at the Friday evening deadline, was supported by council members Al Austin and Rex Richardson.

This was not the first time the statue had been vandalized. Earlier this year the statue had a plaque replaced on its base two years after it was originally stolen in March 2019.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.