Racist graffiti and vandalism discovered over the weekend revealed the work that still has to be done about racial relations in Frederick County, officials said Monday.
On Friday and Saturday, people in the city and in parts of the county found graffiti with racial slurs and offensive symbols, as well as stickers with slogans touting white supremacy.
“On Saturday morning, I awoke to find disturbing, alarming, and racist images and messages posted throughout our city and our county,” Frederick Mayor Michael O'Connor said in a statement Monday.
O'Connor said he immediately sent the city's Department of Public Works to remove the spray paint, stickers and other materials, but said cleaning up the damage was only the beginning.
“These actions are counter to our community's growth, as we continue to have honest and hard conversations and work to end racial injustice,” he said. “We, as a community have work to do. This work requires all of us...our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, and family members.”
Alderman Derek Shackelford said the real challenge comes with making institutional changes that have been talked about for a hundred years.
“This is the easy part to confront,” Shackelford said about confronting the hateful content from the weekend.
The hard part comes with putting people into boardrooms, classrooms and elected office who are capable of solving the problems, he said.
Frederick police received reports beginning Friday evening, mostly about stickers on signs in downtown Frederick with white supremacist messages, Lt. Andrew Alcorn said Monday.
They also got calls about graffiti on a bridge over Rosemont Avenue, Alcorn said, and graffiti at four locations in Baker Park.
Police are reviewing security camera footage and asking the community for help in identifying who is responsible for the damage, as well as checking with other departments in the county, state and region to check for similar incidents, Alcorn said.
Public Works crews were sent out to the Baker Park bandshell, the area around Culler Lake, a bridge, and a tunnel in the park between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Saturday morning, city spokeswoman Ashley Waters said.
Some of the vandalism was washed off with chemicals and a power washer, while some was painted over, she said.
Incidents were also reported in various parts of the county, including the Lake Linganore area.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office did not respond to requests for information on the county incidents.
It's unfortunate that people have defaced public property, said Frederick Alderman Roger Wilson, and he hopes police can find the people responsible.
People can find different ways to make their voice heard, “but this is unacceptable,” Wilson said.
The country has been dealing with the social and economic effects of a pandemic, as well as racial tensions unleashed by the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks, Wilson said.
“The city of Frederick is not immune to that,” he said.
It's important to understand that while the truly horrific displays of racism, homophobia, and white supremacy that have been found recently in the city and county recently don't define Frederick, they're also not a fluke or the work of one angry or isolated person, Alderman Ben MacShane said Monday.
Seeing the damage done over the weekend needs to be a motivation to continue the work of fighting systemic racism and how it's institutionalized in the city, MacShane said.
The hard thing about systemic racism is that it doesn't require a person to be consciously perpetuating it, but can be seen in the way people hire, do business, and prioritize issues, he said.
The city has started the process of evaluating processes so it can start to dismantle the systemic racism in its midst, but there's still work to do, he said.
County Executive Jan Gardner issued a statement Monday condemning the graffiti and vandalism in the city and county.
“I often share my belief that Frederick County is a caring community,” Gardner said. “I witness the goodwill, generosity and kindness of this community every day. The images that appeared this weekend are ugly and hateful and do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be. There simply is no room for racism or hate in our community...In recent weeks, people of all ages, races, and backgrounds have joined together to demand change to end racial injustice and secure the promise of America – fairness and justice for all. I am filled with hope and optimism for meaningful change. But, it is clear that this effort will need a broader conversation to change hearts and minds.”
On Monday, the county announced a virtual town hall scheduled for July 6 to discuss inequities in education, health, jobs, and other areas.
Frederick County Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater said she had constituents send her photos of the damage in parts of the county.
The vandalism is completely unacceptable, Fitzwater said, and needs to be spoken out against and not treated as just another example of spray-painting on property.
Everyone has to speak out when they see overt acts like this, but also less obvious racist and homophobic actions, she said.
Fitzwater said that while it's disgusting that people still have to deal with this sort of thing, it's consistent with things happening in other places.
“I want to say I'm surprised, but it's not like this isn't something that's being seen all over the country, unfortunately,” she said.