Artists Snuck 'ACAB' Into a City Mural and Police Are Angry

The artists also formed a human shield when the Canadian city tried to remove it.
September 1, 2020, 3:22pm
"More Justice, More Peace" mural in Victoria, B.C.
The "ACAB" design is inside the letter S. Photo courtesy of Colin Smith Photography

A Canadian police chief demanded that a part of a city-approved mural be removed after the cops found out one of the artists had subtly embedded the “ACAB” acronym (All Cops are Bastards) into its design.

The “More Justice, More Peace” mural to highlight racial injustice and police brutality, painted on August 14, was approved by the City of Victoria in British Columbia.

“Its [sic] come to our attention that All Cops Are Bastards is incorporated into the More Justice More Peace mural … I have been asked by the Chief of Police and City Manager to have this removed immediately,” a Victoria, British Columbia, city representative told one of the artists behind the mural in an email seen by VICE News.

A second email sent last Thursday gave the artists an ultimatum: either they could remove the acronym themselves by 12 p.m. the same day, or city staff would go and paint over it themselves.

Instead, members of the community joined the 17 artists who had painted the mural at Victoria’s picturesque Bastion Square before noon and physically placed themselves on top of the mural, preventing city staff from altering it in any way.

The physical presence of the artists and their supporters prompted city staff to leave the mural alone.

At the time of writing, the mural is still up with ACAB on it.

Charity Williams told VICE News that she and the other artists felt deeply disrespected after, in their view, the police department and the municipality tried to control the situation. She added that the response from authorities further justified the necessity to include ACAB in the mural in the first place.

“When we added ACAB to our piece, we did so as a statement against the mistreatment that is placed upon Black people by the police throughout North America particularly, as well as across the globe,” the artists said in a statement.

The chief of Victoria Police Department, Del Manak, issued a statement expressing his reasons for wanting the ACAB acronym gone.

“The inclusion of ACAB is deeply disrespectful to the women and men of the Victoria Police Department… The Victoria Police Department, and I personally, stand behind the call for ‘More Justice, More Peace.’ Justice is not justice if it does not include all members of society. Excluding one group through harmful words seems counter to the very spirit of the mural itself,” Manak said.

Victoria city councillor Sharmarke Dubow was the only municipal leader in Victoria to speak out on the issue. He argued that while he understands Chief Manak’s point, the department could have taken this opportunity to listen and comprehend why a statement like ACAB was made in the first place, rather than taking offence.

“The mural...is much closer to true political expression of views and should be protected even if some people are offended,” Dubow told VICE News.

Victoria Police Department and the City of Victoria declined an interview request for this story.

Williams says she will not allow the artwork to be changed or altered in any way.

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