His Fence Says 'Black Lives Matter.' His City Says Paint Over It.


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  2 months ago  •  19 comments

By:   Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio (nytimes)

His Fence Says 'Black Lives Matter.' His City Says Paint Over It.
West St. Paul, Minn., says the nearly 75-foot message violates multiple portions of city code. The conflict is brewing as the Twin Cities region uneasily awaits a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

West St. Paul, Minn., says the nearly 75-foot message violates multiple portions of city code. The conflict is brewing as the Twin Cities region uneasily awaits a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.


Guillermo Maldonado Perez and his 7-year-old daughter, Lourdes, live in the West St. Paul neighborhood where a "Black Lives Matter" mural has drawn complaints.Credit...Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times


By Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

April 10, 2021


The colorful mural, adorned with hearts, a portrait of a local activist and the words "Black Lives Matter," stands out at a busy intersection in West St. Paul, a community nestled against the Twin Cities. It is a cherished symbol for many Black residents, a site of reflection and pride.

But the city says it must go.

"I am totally saddened," said Kimetha Johnson, the activist depicted on the 75-foot fence, who last year became the city's first Black mayoral candidate. "It's an awesome piece of art. The message is needed here."

West St. Paul, where about 5 percent of the 20,000 residents are Black, says that the mural violates two sections of city code — about fences and prohibited signs — and that its specific content has nothing to do with the violations.

The commotion over the mural comes at a pivotal moment in the Twin Cities area, which is anxiously awaiting a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, who was Black.

Thousands of residents spilled into the streets of Minneapolis, St. Paul and West St. Paul after Mr. Floyd's death, demanding justice night after night in protests that reverberated around the country. About 200 National Guard members are stationed in the area while Mr. Chauvin's trial unfolds; witnesses will return to the stand on Monday, the start of the third week of testimony.

Ryan Weyandt, who owns the contested fence and the house it borders, received a notice from West St. Paul officials in November informing him that he was violating the city's sign ordinance.

He reached an agreement to keep the mural, which was created with spray paints and acrylics last summer, in place until April 15. But the city denied an extension beyond Thursday and told reporters Mr. Weyandt could face fines of up to $2,000 for every 10 additional days the mural remains.

Mr. Weyandt, who is white, said he had asked local museums if they might want to preserve the entire fence in their collections. If none accept, he will probably end up painting over the mural, an outcome he considers highly disappointing.

"We don't want to take it down before the trial is over," he said. "We want that message to stay."

Dan Nowicki, a spokesman for the city, said in an email that officials had received multiple complaints about the "noncompliant fence," which breaches a part of city code that says fences must be one uniform color and feature no pictures or lettering. In its original notice to Mr. Weyandt, the city cited a code that bans signs "painted, attached or in any other manner affixed to fences, roofs, trees, rocks or other similar natural surfaces."

"While the city understands the message on this particular fence is very important to the homeowner and many members of our community," Mr. Nowicki said, "the city cannot and does not take content or message into account when dealing with infractions of city code."

The notice Mr. Weyandt received also explained that during general election years, noncommercial signs are allowed "in any size, in any number, in any location, except the public right of way" — starting 46 days before the state primary election through 10 days after the general election in November.

Such exceptions are common in Minnesota city ordinances and allow people to display almost anything they want, said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "But once that time has passed, then the city or the town or whoever it is has a lot of discretion to establish restrictions," she said.

Ms. Johnson, who goes by Kae Jae and received about 35 percent of the vote in last year's mayoral election, said it was especially bad timing that the city was demanding that the mural be painted over in the middle of Mr. Chauvin's trial.

She said she liked to bring her 7-year-old granddaughter to the fence because of its powerful signal to Black girls.

"She literally loves to read out loud, 'Black Lives Matter,'" Ms. Johnson said, adding, "For her, it's seeing that the city has some type of pride about her."

On Saturday morning, Guillermo Maldonado Perez, an assistant principal at a St. Paul school, and his 7-year-old daughter were admiring the mural. A petition in support of the painted message was circulating on Facebook, he said, but the request had seemed mostly to engage people from outside of the area.

"Hopefully, West St. Paul will change the way they allow people to express their values and their opinions," he said, noting the demonstrations on nearby streets after Mr. Floyd was killed in May.

Mr. Weyandt, the fence's owner, said he and his husband were simply hoping to project the "Black Lives Matter" message as best they could. They offered their fence as a canvas, hiring two artists who had worked on murals in the Twin Cities area.

"If one car stopped at the stop sign, looked at the fence and took that thought home, then our mission was accomplished," he said.

Mr. Weyandt said that they had put messages and flags on the same fence several times before but that this was the first time the city had ever served them with a violation notice. One of the flags, which was hung up before 2020, proclaimed "Coexist."

Joshua Rashaad McFadden contributed reporting from West St. Paul, Minn.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    2 months ago

I assume that "conservatives" support keeping the fence mural up, in accordance with free speech beliefs. 

Sean Treacy
Professor Guide
1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  JohnRussell @1    2 months ago
assume that "conservatives" support keeping the fence mural up, in accordance with free speech beliefs

I assume you oppose keeping it up, right? 

Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @1.1    2 months ago

Personally, I think there should be "compromise" on this sort of thing.  I would allow such displays on an occasional basis, not permanent. If these things were absolutely all over a neighborhood it would in fact detract from the aesthetic appearance of the area. Maybe permit murals for a month no more than once a year. 

But the fact is conservatives should be on the fence owners side, right?   It's his property and God gave him the right to do what he wants with it. 

Professor Principal
1.1.2  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @1.1.1    2 months ago

The city did compromise, it allowed the sign to remain up until the 15th.

Greg Jones
Masters Expert
1.1.3  Greg Jones  replied to  JohnRussell @1.1.1    2 months ago
But the fact is conservatives should be on the fence owners side, right?   It's his property and God gave him the right to do what he wants with it. 

If the liberal authorities in that area want it gone, it should go. Most conservatives would come down on the side of obeying the laws...even minor-ones like city codes.

321steve - realistically thinkin or Duu
Sophomore Principal
1.1.4  321steve - realistically thinkin or Duu   replied to  Greg Jones @1.1.3    2 months ago
Most conservatives would come down on the side of obeying the laws...even minor-ones like city codes.

Maybe, IF they took the time to know what they are. 

I just a had a neighbor who put up a spotlight shining on my home. I politely asked him to change it because I couldn't look out my front window after dark without it blinding me. He said he put it up because he is afraid his house at the end of the street may be ran into by a car. 

But, that is not my problem, I didn't buy a home I'm afraid of.

I offered to help buy a "curve ahead" sign to put out there for him (He said "I'll think about it.") So I told him if he didn't do something different that I wasn't going to continue not be able to look out my window and I intended to drown out his light so it didn't bother me if the situation didn't change. 

He didn't do a thing....  after a month, I did . 

I checked the city code laws for lighting before I lit this place up for real. 

Evidently, he didn't know the city code for outdoor lighting so he called the cops, they drove by and couldn't do a damn thing. 

Now his light no longer bothers me and I don't care if mine bothers him.

BTW: I'm guessing he would be considered a conservative, he took his trump banner down 1-7-21.

Professor Principal
1.2  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @1    2 months ago

Well, you know what happens when you assume.

Greg Jones
Masters Expert
3  Greg Jones    2 months ago

Whatever the verdict, there's likely to be new rioting. The words on the fence are repeated so often that they have lost all meaning and relevance and are simply used to demean law enforcement. All lives matter.

Masters Participates
3.1  r.t..b...  replied to  Greg Jones @3    2 months ago

No, Greg, there will only be protests should chauvin be somehow acquitted. 

Greg Jones
Masters Expert
3.1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  r.t..b... @3.1    2 months ago

Yes there will be, because some will feel he wasn't convicted of a serious enough charge.

And the usual suspects will find some excuse to indulge in recreational rioting

Masters Participates
3.1.2  r.t..b...  replied to  Greg Jones @3.1.1    2 months ago

‘recreational rioting’?

That’s as idiotic a phrase as ‘all lives matter’ when uttered in the context of the ongoing struggle for judicial equity.

Akin to ‘recreational racism’...a seemingly popular pastime. 

Masters Quiet
3.1.3  Ronin2  replied to  r.t..b... @3.1.2    2 months ago
‘recreational rioting’?

Yes, like in Chicago.

“When people showed up on Michigan Avenue in the downtown area with U-Haul trucks and cargo vans, and sophisticated equipment used to cut metal, and the methods that were used, and how quickly it got spun up… that wasn’t any spontaneous reaction,” Lightfoot told TIME in her fifth-floor offices at Chicago’s City Hall on Tuesday. The chaos that unfolded Sunday night, and into the predawn hours Monday, was initially blamed on a police shooting in the city’s southside Englewood neighborhood. News of the incident—along with misinformation that a minor had been shot—pinballed on social media, resulting in “caravans” of cars headed north downtown, Lightfoot says.

This is what happens when Democratic Mayors and Governors allow their Brown Shirts to do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want.

Professor Principal
3.2  CB   replied to  Greg Jones @3    2 months ago

Of course, "All Lives Matter." It's not just a buzz phrase! Question for you: When does a citizen of this country become a fully-incorporated citizen of this country?

Masters Quiet
3.2.1  Ronin2  replied to  CB @3.2    2 months ago

I prefer "No lives matter".

That is what this country has come to with the divisions. Special this, special that, special the other. Everyone wants to be special. What the Incredibles so aptly pointed out repeatedly:

Professor Principal
4  Ender    2 months ago

I would say it depends on city codes.

The way I look at it, I wouldn't want a fence like that, that said trump, maga.

Even though they did a good job on it, I would have to say it needs to go.

One fence could beget another, then fences all over the city could be crappy billboards.

PhD Principal
6  Kathleen    2 months ago

I think it should come down because of the distraction it will cause for the drivers. ( That goes for any political, high profile subject matter ) Only a short time limit it should remain. 

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
7  Mark in Wyoming     2 months ago

I cant say, but it might be time to come up with a different presentation .

looking at the supplied picture , i am taking all the elements in .

 ok city code says things have to be a certain way , ok  and compromise has been applied since Nov.

 what i see is also a series of raised planter boxes at the foot of the fence , you might be able to guess where im going now .

It would take a good deal of work and effort and patience, and likely some research and planning  but i doubt there is anything in the city code  that would preclude the planter boxes from spelling out the desired message with flowers , and filling in the spaces with contrasting colored flowers .

 of course im just spitballing and brainstorming an idea that might work better than whats being presented . and would be hard pressed to garner complaints .

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
7.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @7    2 months ago

Or how about using green ivy on a painted white background to spell out the words?

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
7.1.1  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @7.1    2 months ago

I like that idea , but ivy takes a lot of time to cultivate , my thoughts were to do something that was seasonal , with blooming annuals .

from the picture it looks like the mural was accented with the planter boxes , so in season looked presentable , after the season , it slowly became an eye sore .

another factor im thinking is if it stays the same too long it loses its message and effectiveness , people "expect " it to be there and begin to ignore it . change it up so they actually see it in a different way and the message still comes through.


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