A Bushwick mural displaying more than 20,000 'false or misleading' claims made by President Donald Trump was vandalized overnight Wednesday with the statements 'Vote Trump or Die' and 'Stand Back and Stand By.'
The mural's creators, Bushwick photographer Phil Buehler and Tom Tenney, the executive director of non-profit Internet radio station Radio Free Brooklyn, woke up find the 50-foot by 10-foot mural on Grattan Street had been covered in graffiti from end to end.
Buehler came across it as he rounded the corner Thursday morning on a coffee-run with his wife.
"It was like a sucker punch to the gut. A cheap shot," Buehler said. "My heart really sank when I got closer to it and I saw what it really said... it wasn't just vandalism, it was a message and a clear reference to Trump and the Proud Boys."
The Proud Boys is a far-right, anti-immigrant, all-male group founded in 2016, with a history of street violence against its left-wing opponents. President Trump named the group in last week's first presidential debate in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacist and militia groups, saying "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." Members of the group online took the answer as a call to prepare for action.
The phrase "Stand back and stand by" can now be seen scrawled on the right corner of the 'Wall of Lies' mural.
Buehler messaged photos of the defaced mural to Tenney, who said he felt sick when he saw them, but unsurprised. "My heart sank into my stomach. But that was immediately followed by rage and the determination to not give in to bullies like that."
Tenney and Radio Free Brooklyn jumped into action, setting up a GoFundMe page to print another wall to replace the one that has been defaced. Within ten minutes it had raised more than $500.
Tenney said they are now searching for local art spaces in the area where the 'Wall of Lies' can be safely displayed until the election. If they raise more money than they need to print the wall and lease a safe space to display it, they will create more of them, Tenney said.
"We feel strongly that we cant back down to this kind of thing, so we're going to fight back. Depending on how much money we make we'll make three walls. Keep it coming and we'll keep replicating it. You think you're harming us? You're not. You're helping us," he said. They invited any other art spaces who might like to display the mural to contact them.
Buehler and Tenney self-funded the mural, which went up Saturday next to bar and music venue Pine Box Rock Shop.
They initially planned to have it up for just two days, but after seeing the enthusiastic global response to the wall -- which was even visited by United States Senator Chuck Schumer -- they decided to keep it up until the election.
Each of the claims on display were recorded, fact-checked and categorized by The Washington Post during the president's term and are displayed in chronological order, color-coded by category (yellow for Russia, pink for Environment, green for Coronavirus etc).
The mural's organizers have not gone to police about the vandalism, as the 'Wall of Lies' itself was a guerilla art piece, not on their property, and they feel it would be difficult to find the perpetrators.
It will remain up until they have decided what to do next.