Last weekend, two troubling incidents of vandalism occurred on Vashon, when surfaces in Vashon’s town core were defaced with racist graffiti.
The graffiti, which was spray-painted on surfaces at The Village Green and onto the long, street-facing wall of the warehouse just south of the BlueRidge business, was quickly cleaned-up in both instances.
However, some photographs of the graffiti, which in both locations included a racist slur used to denigrate Black people, was posted on social media, igniting concern, anger and sorrow in a number of islanders who commented on posts that included the photographs.
The incident also inspired a community advertisement in this week’s Beachcomber, asking islanders to stand up again racism in the community.
Kim Roeser, who is the manager of Vashon’s Farmer’s Market, discovered the graffiti at The Village Green at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30.
Roeser, who told The Beachcomber that she was speaking as an individual and not as a representative of Vashon Island Growers Association or the Farmer’s Market, said that as a part of her market job, she typically arrives at the Village Green at that hour to set up the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
At that time, she said, she noticed newly spray-painted graffiti, all in the same script, in several places.
The graffiti included the words “USA sucks,” which was written on a brick wall of the Village Green’s public restroom, and also on a porta-potty. The restroom’s outdoor light was also spray-painted over, and a vulgarity was written inside the porta-potty. A drug reference was also written on a table inside the covered structure of the Village Green.
But most troubling, Roeser said, was the racist slur that was scrawled across two more vendor tables inside the covered structure, which Rosser photographed. She immediately covered the tables, and the graffiti, with craft paper. As vendors arrived, they put their products on top of the craft paper. The graffiti was not visible to the public at any time during the market, she said.
Later that day, she said, the graffiti was erased — first by a community member who took it upon themselves to sand the table on which the racist slur was written, and later, by a Park District employee who used a chemical cleaner to remove the other graffiti.
Roeser said she did not report the vandalism to the police.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 1, more graffiti was discovered, across the street from the Village Green, on a long, painted wall of the warehouse building.
The graffiti, in this case, spelled out one word — the same racist slur that had been found on the tables in the Village Green. Roeser said that it too appeared to be in the same script as the graffiti at the Village Green.
On Facebook, at least one islander said that the word had been seen by children who were trick-or-treating in the downtown core on the evening of Oct. 31, but it is not clear if that is the case.
Roeser said she had not seen the graffiti on the wall on Halloween night when she had been in town until after 8 p.m., and used the warehouse wall as a photo backdrop. Rather, she said, she had first seen it as she drove through town at 11 a.m. on Monday. At that time, it was being painted over, she said.
Jim Diers, a photographer who took photos throughout the trick-or-treating event, said he had also not seen or photographed the word on the wall during the Halloween festivities.
Graffiti and litter, Roeser said, is an increasing problem at the Village Green.
“We’ve had fires on the table, and it’s just consistently getting worse,” she said. “People are really bold in the way they use that space.”
She said she personally knew many of the people who spend time hanging out at the Village Green on a daily basis.
“Many of them are wonderful people, so it’s hard to say who painted the racist graffiti,” she said. “It could be anyone, but it’s upsetting and frustrating.”