LBC Lags on MLK Statue Hate Crime Investigation
By Dianne Anderson
No word yet on the status of the investigation on the hate crime against the Martin Luther King Jr. statue has Long Beach residents questioning the city’s commitment to finding out who is behind the Nazi symbols sprayed across the statue last month.
Anitra Joiner, a lifelong Sixth District resident, lives nearby and regularly walks her dog in the park. That July 2 morning of the crime, she hadn’t noticed anything unusual until her cousin called her in the afternoon to take a picture of the statue.
Since then, she said no one has been updating the community.
“Where is the investigation? That is a good question. All that I’ve seen is that there is now video [a portable truck] surveillance posted. I’m curious about how long that will remain there,” she said.
She believes the hate crime must have happened earlier in the day. She also wonders about the video camera on top of the park structure, if it was functional, and if not, why not. When she arrived at the scene after 2:00 p.m., the police were on site, and a clean-up crew was on the way.
“How did this happen in the afternoon? Why don’t we have any feedback? I walked my dog there today thinking, we still haven’t heard anything about this,” she said.
The Mayor’s Office did not return requests for comment.
Joiner’s cousin, Central Area Association President John Malveaux said the city had to get a lift to power wash the hate symbol. He said the statue stands about 14 feet, and climbing it couldn’t have been quick or easy.
Malveaux doesn’t believe it was a local disgruntled white person, rather an outside job, but he also doesn’t have a lot of confidence the criminal will be found.
He said the mayor labeled the LGBTQ Pride Life Tower that burned down earlier this year as a hate crime, which was never solved. Some years ago, he recalled a Black person was killed at the park, also labeled a hate crime, which was never solved.
Years ago, he was invited to dinner through the city’s Sister City program, which took a Japanese contingent on tour. He asked the guests if they saw any African American landmarks, and they told him the city didn’t bring them to the Sixth District. They saw no representation of the Black community that day.
“It was a reminder to me that the city doesn’t consider the King statue as something of value that they share with visitors to the city [and] what is here that represents Black people,” he said.
Councilmember Suely Saro said in an email that she is working to get the statue bronze restored, and she provided a June 30 memo from Lea D. Eriksen, Director of Technology and Innovation for the City Council to Mayor and City Council.
It details that Measure A funding, the Public Works and Technology, and Innovation Departments are involved in upgrading the camera system at MLK Park to the latest citywide Genetec network camera standards.
The memo states the telecommunication technology has improved since MLK Park cameras were originally installed. However, the memo does not address whether the old system cameras at the park were working or able to capture the hate crime.
Anyone who can provide a lead to whoever defaced the King statue is in for some big money. The hope was that $8,000 would draw out someone with information, but so far no one has stepped forward.
Peter Levi, Regional Director of Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that when their organization heard of the King statue defacement, they contacted law enforcement to donate $3,000 in hopes of encouraging witnesses or information leading to an arrest or conviction.
The City council then approved an additional $5,000 in coordination with the Mayor’s office.
With the level of white supremacist activity seen within his ADL service area of Orange County and Long Beach, he said they felt it was important to step up.
Levi noted increased hate crime in 2020, but ironically a decrease in Long Beach. However, for most of the United States, the number of hate crimes is consistently the highest against Black people.
The California Department of Justice reports an 88% increase in anti-Black hate crime since 2019.
ADL also offers their HEAT map database citing hate extremism, antisemitism and terrorism that can be searched. He said that the data drives policies and helps put resources in appropriate places. While there is mandated reporting, he said many cities still miss the mark.
During the 1990s, the ADL, a 100-year-old anti-hate organization, wrote the model hate crime legislation mandated in 45 states, but he said law enforcement isn’t trained in making distinctions between assault or race bias.
“Was it a misogynist crime, or not? They might put it up as an assault, that this is a Black trans woman, but not if they’re not trained to clue into that,” he said.
Levi said the defacement of the King statue was a clear signal to Black and other allies of civil rights, especially going into July 4.
“When someone does a hate crime like this of Nazi symbols on a statue that is a symbol of civil rights, that’s sending a message to a wide swath of the community about who belongs and who doesn’t belong,” he said.
To see ADL interactive HEAT map, see https://www.adl.org/education-and-resources/resource-knowledge-base/adl-heat-map