Detroit suburban officials have removed an accompanying tile depicting a skull logo that critics see as a rebuke to the racial justice movement, where a new mural has been dubbed “pro-police”.
The tile featured a skull imagery attached to a violent vigilante character in Marvel Comics called the Punisher, and a depiction of the “Thin Blue Line” flag, a combination that some police officers say is a show of solidarity for law enforcement. But it has also become associated with right-wing extremism.
“We made the decision to remove it,” said Michael C. Taylor, Mayor of Sterling Heights, who said his city would replace the tile, but had no plans to scrap the rest of the mural. “We don’t want a one-piece mural. deviate from the purpose of the Act, which is to respect the police service in the community.”
The tiles were made by local police officers and their families in workshops at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which sponsored the mural. Most of the tiles are centered on symbols of peace and love.
The mural unveiled last week on the exterior of the Sterling Heights Police Station also drew criticism from law enforcement, but it had more to do with the timing of its arrival and the role played by the museum. Critics said the focus should be on public discussion on issues of police aggression.
The artist behind the 20-foot by 30-foot mural, Nicole MacDonald, then rejected the painting and asked for it to be removed, saying that she no longer considered it appropriate and was used by the museum, who paid for the work. An initiative to bring cultural events to surrounding counties whose tax dollars support its operations.
Police officers have defended the mural, suggesting that it is designed to employ a diverse police force to serve in harmony with their community.
Other tiles that accompany the mural include references to the “Thin Blue Line” symbol, but the mayor of Sterling Heights said those contributions would be looked into.
On Wednesday afternoon, museum leaders issued a letter apologizing to staff for any inconvenience they may have caused by the unveiling of the mural. The controversy comes at a time when the Detroit Museum is facing questions About whether it is doing enough to meet the needs of the predominantly black city in which it is located or the people of color on its staff.
“As a leadership team, we are aware that there were many failures and mistakes in this process. We deeply apologize to all of you, and are committed to doing better in the immediate future,” reads the letter, at which the museum Salvador Salort-Ponce, and other officials. “The tiles covered had an image that was particularly offensive to many in our community. If we had been aware of its symbolism, which was recently appropriated by white supremacist groups, we would have rejected it altogether.