The United States Supreme Court may have announced that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states in the nation, but this hasn’t stopped vandals in the Mission District from expressing their view to the contrary. Three times in as many weeks, a LGBT-themed mural at 24th and Bryant (Galaria de la Raza), a well-known space for artists, has been victimized; this time, it was set on fire. The mural, a digital print entitled “Por Vida” by Manuel Paul (Maricón Collective, Los Angeles) was installed in the early part of June. Its soft lines and colorful hues illustrate one transgendered individual, flanked by two sets of male couples. First, just days after its installation, vandals covered it with blue and red spray paint; second, just a few days later, the new copy of the print was defaced with black spray paint. Now, after having been replaced a third time, it has been set on fire. However, surveillance cameras were evidently installed and local law enforcement officials seem to have a good idea who the culprit or culprits were.
California vandalism (CA Penal Code 594) penalties are meted out according to the value of the property destroyed. In general, destroying, defacing, or damaging any property that is not one’s own could result in charges of vandalism. If the value of the damaged or destroyed property is under $400, then it will be treated as a misdemeanor. However, if the value of the damaged or destroyed property is over $400, then the crime becomes a California ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it is up to the prosecutors assigned to the case to determine for themselves whether they will treat a particular case as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Convictions for misdemeanor vandalism end in rather minor punishments: 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. Yet, felony vandalism charges could leave the guilty party in jail for up to 3 years and subject to a $10,000 fine. The value of Paul’s digital print has not been determined.