Vulgar messages painted over mistakenly destroyed murals

Updated: Feb. 12, 2018 at 5:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Just days after City of Memphis crews accidentally painted over murals, the cleanup crews were forced to clean the walls again.

This time, city crews had to clean up offensive graffiti aimed at city leaders.

Walid Sakaan is from Syria, but he has spent decades in the Bluff City. His art studio overlooks the Willett Street underpass near Midtown Memphis--the place where city workers mistakenly painted over murals created by Paint Memphis.

"It was a shocker. I looked over there and I said what happened?" Sakaan said.

Sakaan said he values art; he called the city's mistake upsetting.

Then, a few days later, he was upset once again.

Graffiti artists painted profanity and inflammatory messages over the newly cleaned walls. Some of the messages specifically mock Mayor Jim Strickland.

City crews were supposed to remove six murals in the area that residents previously reported as offensive. However, the crews got overzealous and painted over several murals that were not offensive.

City Councilman Berlin Boyd said the error was a simple mix-up.

"It was just a mix up in conversation. However, it's done. Where do we go on from here?" Boyd said.

Boyd said he invited Karen Golightly, executive director of Paint Memphis, to the next City Council executive session meeting to hash out a plan to move forward.

"Maybe it's an opportunity for us to put together some parameters about what type of art is being painted in our districts that we represent," Boyd said.

Golightly said she spoke with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland via phone on Friday, Feb. 9.

"He told me that there would be a stay on buffing any more murals until after I had met individually with the City Council and our February 20 meeting with the executive committee of the City Council," Golightly said.

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