Students send message of tolerance in response to vandalism
They banded together to cover up graffiti, write messages of encouragement
Brooke Mitchell was shocked and outraged on Monday when she saw what she assumes was an anti-immigrant message spray painted on an apartment building located across the street from Park City High School.
The student council member immediately called the Park City Police Department and was told police had already been notified of the incident.
Still upset and hoping to stand in solidarity with her school’s Latino population and other immigrants who live where the vandalism occurred, Mitchell said she wanted to do more than dial the police.
She soon found she wasn’t alone. Many students and teachers wanted to prove Park City isn’t a community that supports hateful rhetoric.
Within a day of spotting the graffiti, students and teachers had painted over the vandalism and drawn messages of love and tolerance on each other’s cars.
“We really wanted to do something about it as quick as we could, because we didn’t want our students to feel unsafe or hurt in anyway,” Mitchell said. “We also wanted to make sure residents felt safe in their homes.”
Teachers Jacob Jobe and Matthew Nagel had rushed across the street to Aspen Villas apartments on Monday to apply a coat of primer over the vandalism.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of student council members went to the scene to finish up their teachers’ work and cover up the word “Illegall” and other markings.
“Of course it was spelled incorrectly,” Mitchell said. “You could still see the words through the primer. We found a paint color that matched the exterior of the building, and we spent about an hour and a half covering up the graffiti.”
Charlene Rodriguez, a member of the student council and president of the school’s Latinos in Action group, was there to paint. Rodriguez moved to the U.S. from Guatemala when she was 3 years old and felt personally attacked by the message. Several of her peers felt the same way, she added.
“Racism and hate crimes are something that is happening within our society, but it’s also happening within our community,” Rodriguez said. “I think it was kind of a wake-up call.”
Mitchell said students and teachers, rather than getting upset, turned the incident into something positive.
“We were painting over the hateful messages with love and tolerance,” Mitchell said.
Students also spread words of encouragement and support on Tuesday morning. While getting up early isn’t a high schooler’s favorite activity, many students came to school before start time to write on people’s cars.
Soon the parking lot was full of vehicles showing messages such as “no room for hate in PC” and “we stand united.”
Grace Mason showed up to stand with her school’s Latino students. She said she knows what it’s like to be attacked for being different.
“As an LGBTQ-plus student, it is not new for me to experience attacks like these, but seeing it with my Latino peers felt extremely close to home,” Mason said.
Days later, the students’ efforts to spread positivity in the Park City community were alive and well. Cruising down Kearns Boulevard at 8:50 a.m. on Friday was a car that displayed the message: SPREAD LOVE.
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