Symbols resembling a swastika and SS bolts that were worn by some Nazi troops during World War II were graffitied onto a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in Central Long Beach Friday afternoon.
The marks spotted on the likeness of King, the civil rights leader who advocated for human rights until his assassination in 1968, hurt local neighborhood residents such as Mary Simmons.
“It’s just so painful,” Simmons said. “I want to cry every time I think about it.”
Authorities were notified about the hate-motivated symbols on the front of the statue in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Friday at about 3:18 p.m.
“The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime and there are currently no suspects nor suspect information available,” Richard Mejia, an LBPD spokesman, said in an email.
Both the swastika and the SS bolts are common white supremacist/neo-Nazi symbols.
Though the graffiti was removed by the Parks and Recreation department, residents captured a photo of the symbols.
Simmons, who is a board member with community-based group AOC7, representing the neighborhood bordered by Anaheim, Orange, Cherry & 7th St., said she and other residents are organizing a peace rally in front of the statue on Saturday from 6 to 7 p.m.
Simmons said the community wanted to speak out against hate-motivated crimes to mirror the civil unrest that took place last summer to protest violence against communities of color.
“Especially right now with all the uprising—and this? We’re not going to take this sitting down,” Simmons said. “We are tired of being silenced.”
In 2019, a plaque at the base of the statue honoring the people who sponsored the monument’s construction was reportedly stolen. It was replaced in February this year.
Pastor Gregory Sanders, who grew up two streets away from the park and remembered when it was originally named 19th Street Park, said he’s never seen this level of hate graffitied onto the statue of King.
Sanders said that it was odd to see something like that happen at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, adding that the park is a “hallowed community that has traditionally been safe from extreme hate.”
Sanders said the symbols triggered memories of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and he felt sympathy for members of the Jewish community.
Sanders is a member of the Long Beach Ministers Alliance and is planning to attend the peace rally Saturday.
“For me personally, It’s a reminder that not only what we have to do, but we have not advanced far in the work that has been done,” Sanders said. “It was a death for my false sense of progress.”