Victoria council plans to remove the acronym ACAB – known to mean all cops are bastards – from a mural painted in Bastion Square.
During the Oct. 16 committee meeting, Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe brought the motion forward, seconded by Coun. Geoff Young, asking council to facilitate further dialogue among the African Heritage Association of Vancouver Island, the artists, staff and the police while removing the acronym at the earliest possible opportunity.
The mural, depicting the words More Justice More Peace, was painted in mid-August after the death of George Floyd sparked massive protests across the world. Within days of the mural being painted, the issue of the acronym was brought up by members of the community.
The motion states some people considered the letters to be a hate message, and that council has received a letter from the African Heritage Association of Vancouver Island – one of the main sponsors – expressing their discomfort with the acronym.
VicPD Chief Del Manak said the acronym counters the spirit of the mural itself and called it disrespectful to the members of the department.
After a lengthy debate, council agreed to an amendment brought forward by Coun. Jeremy Loveday, that the City of Victoria formally recognizes the prevalence of systemic racism in Victoria both as an organization and as a community. Loveday’s amendment adds that the city will commit to addressing and undoing systemic racism everywhere it exists.
Thorton-Joe said she had considered bringing this motion forward at various points prior to Thursday, adding that she felt council had let staff walk a “tight rope” and wanted council to take more responsibility in the decision.
Since the issue of the acronym was first raised, discussions between city staff and the artists have been ongoing. Coun. Sharmarke Dubow told council that one of the discussions he had been involved in lasted more than six hours.
Coun. Ben Isitt tried to amend the motion, asking council to postpone the decision to the Oct. 22 committee of the whole meeting to have staff report back on the ongoing dialogue, which did not pass.
The date of the removal is unknown as staff continue to engage with the community and artists. The goal is to have the acronym removed and replaced with something to acknowledge the artist’s experience.
In August of 2018, the City of Victoria removed the statue of John A. Macdonald from outside city hall and replaced it with a plaque. Mayor Lisa Helps said she imagines something similar taking place with the mural.
The issue will be heard in council again next week.
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