2 people charged with hate crimes, accused of vandalizing Black Lives Matter mural

2 people charged with hate crimes, accused of vandalizing Black Lives Matter mural
An aerial photo shows the painted word "Black" part of "Black Lives Matter" giant street mural spanning three city blocks near City Hall in San Francisco, California on June 12, 2020. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images, File)

MARTINEZ, Calif. — Authorities have filed hate crime and other charges against two people who were seen on video Saturday vandalizing a Black Lives Matter mural painted on the street in Martinez.

Nicole Anderson, 42, and David Nelson, 53, face charges of violating another person's civil rights, vandalism and possession of tools to commit vandalism or graffiti, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday. If convicted, Anderson and Nelson could face up to a year in county jail.

Authorities said Anderson is accused of covering the bright yellow letters of a Black Lives Matter mural with black paint shortly after it was completed Saturday. In video of the incident taken by bystanders and shared online, a man wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt and hat, who authorities identified as Nelson, can be heard telling onlookers that racism is "a leftist lie."

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"We're sick of this narrative, that's what's wrong," the man said in the video. "The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression the narrative of racism -- it's a lie."

A woman, identified by authorities as Anderson, could be seen using a roller to spread black paint over the mural. In the video, she can be heard saying, "This is not happening in my town."

Kerry Leidich told the San Francisco Chronicle that he began to record video after he, his girlfriend and his 16-year-old son saw the incident unfold as they were admiring the mural. He said his girlfriend, who is Black, was traumatized by the incident.

“At first, I was just taken aback and astonished,” Leidich told the Chronicle. “I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is happening.’”

Justin Gomez, an organizer with the group Martizians for Black Lives, told KTVU that the group had gotten a permit July 1 to paint the mural. In a statement, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said the mural “was a peaceful and powerful way to communicate the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County and the country.”

“We must address the root and byproduct of systemic racism in our country,” Becton said. “The Black Lives Matter movement is an important civil rights cause that deserves all of our attention.”

In a statement released Saturday, police called the incident "divisive and hurtful."

"The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner," the statement said.

In a letter addressed to the community Tuesday, Mayor Rob Schroder said city officials approved of the temporary mural after learning about fliers posted on sidewalks near downtown in which supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement were threatened.

Schroeder said officials also dealt with “a separate incident that resulted in the brandishing of a firearm at the mural site.” Crews also worked Tuesday to clean the words “White Lives Matter” after they were painted on a street near the mural, KTVU reported.