IN PICTURES: Residents host peace rally following defacing of MLK statue

A day after a statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Central Long Beach was graffitied with symbols often associated with White supremacy, residents, elected officials and pastors hosted a rally in Martin Luther King Jr. Park to advocate for peace.

Mary Simmons, an organizer with community based group AOC7, co-hosted the event with Rocio Torres saying that something had to be done in response to an act that she described as heartbreaking.

“Our hearts were broken when we saw the posts on social media,” Simmons said. “We can stand by and do nothing, or we can stand up against it.”

The symbols, a swastika and SS bolts, were washed away by the time the group met on Saturday. Police are currently investigating the vandalism as a potential hate crime.

LBPD Assistant Chief Wally Hebeish said the department was taking the investigation seriously.

“This is no small issue,” Hebeish said. “We are taking this as serious as it has to be.”

The message organizers of the rally wanted to spread was a message of peace. Pastor Gregory Sanders, a leader within the Long Beach Ministers Alliance, said people should not hate the person who may have graffitied the symbols on the statue, but to instead hate the act.

“We’re not here because we hate the person who did the crime,” Sanders said. “We hate the crime.”

Hate crimes in Long Beach are minimal compared to a rising count in the rest of the state, according to a report from the attorney general. However, some experts say that could be due to underreporting because of cultural and language barriers.

There has been a recent spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Charles Song, a prominent leader in Long Beach’s Cambodian community, said all communities have faced hate-based crimes.

Councilwoman Suley Saro, who represents the area, echoed Song’s remarks.

“This display is an attack on all of us,” she said.

Hate symbols graffitied on Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Central Long Beach

A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Charles Song, Councilwoman Suely Saro (right) and Rota Prom (left) listen to speakers at a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Mary Simmons speaks at a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Rota Prom holds a sign during a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

North Long Beach Councilman Rex Richardson attends a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Councilwoman Suely Saro speaks to a crowd at a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Long Beach police and members of the community attend a peace demonstration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Central Long Beach on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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