These Artists Agreed to Remove 'ACAB' From a City Mural, But Left a Parting Shot for the Cops

The Victoria, British Columbia police chief says he was offended by the message, which was then painted over by a vandal.
​A man (L) vandalizing the 'More Justice, More Peace' mural. Victoria Police Chief    Del Manak (R) called the mural 'offensive.'
A man (L) vandalizing the 'More Justice, More Peace' mural. Victoria Police Chief  

Del Manak (R) called the mural 'offensive.' Left image via Victoria PD, right image via The Canadian Press. 

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A group of young artists ordered to remove an “ACAB” (All Cops are Bastards) acronym it had embedded in a city-funded mural still managed to leave a message to police about systemic racism. 

The mural in Victoria, British Columbia’s historic Bastion Square used to read “More Justice, More Peace”—an expression painted by 17 BIPOC artists to draw attention to racial injustice and police brutality in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. It also included ACAB written in small letters in the letter “S” of “Justice.”

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Now, the following message, added last Friday, has replaced the “S”: “This letter has been censored by the City of Victoria influenced by the Victoria Police Department. In doing so, Victoria is contributing to the silencing of Black and Indigenous voices and experiences across the land.”

In August, controversy erupted in Victoria after the city’s chief of police, Del Manak, condemned the ACAB acronym embedded in the mural, prompting city staff to try and forcibly remove it.

The artists refused to let the painting be altered by physically placing themselves on top of it, sparking a monthslong consultation process. 

This process culminated in city council unanimously voting to remove the “ACAB” letters in October—but the organizer of the mural painting event says none of the city’s council members were present during consultation with the artists.

“I’m frustrated. I felt very strongly about not having it removed,” Charity Williams told VICE News.

“With the new message we have of our voices being silenced, this is something that happens to our communities quite often,” Williams said. “It’s so realistic to what so many people go through every single day.” 

Williams said none of the councillors who opposed the “ACAB” acronym reached out to her or the other artists to hear their perspective.

Manak said in a statement he was deeply disappointed with the new message. 

“These changes are as offensive, if not more so, than the original anti-police rhetoric in the initial artwork,” Manak wrote. “In my opinion, the divisive message contained in this artwork is inaccurate, misinformed, and disrespectful.”

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His statement acknowledged that systemic racism exists across Canada and added that “expressions of hate, exclusion, and disrespect are not helpful” in the conversation.

According to Williams, Manak, who was present with city staff during a six-hour long consultation process with the artists, was unwilling to hear them out.

“Everybody in the room besides Chief Del Manak was open to conversation and I think heard us and acknowledged what we were saying,” she said.

The message that has replaced “ACAB” in the mural was sanctioned by city staff.

However, less than 24 hours after Manak issued his statement, the artists’ words were painted over in black by an unknown vandal.

Police say they are aware of this incident, have shared images of the suspect involved, and are investigating.

Victoria Police declined an interview request for this story.

Follow Brishti Basu on Twitter.