Mission LGBT mural set aflame in 3rd vandalism incident

The LGBT mural vandalized twice in recent weeks outside the Galeria de la Raza cultural center in the Mission was defaced yet again late Monday night by an unknown arsonist.

The mural was unveiled earlier this month — and replaced late last week— on the corner of 24th and Bryant streets in celebration of Pride.

The mural, which depicts gay, lesbian and transgender Latinos, has elicited homophobic responses on social media, and was spray painted over twice before.

The digital image, which was pasted on the wall, was lit on fire by an unknown man Monday night. Police said a witness had a fire extinguisher nearby and calmed the flames while firefighters and police responded.

“Everyone is safe, including our neighbors,” Galeria de la Raza said in a statement on their Facebook page. “Keep us in your thoughts.”

Witnesses told police the arsonist — a man with cloth over his face, wearing a black sweatshirt, black pants and white sneakers — ran southbound on Bryant Street toward 25th Street after setting the fire.

“This is extremely dangerous, this is beyond just vandalism now, this is putting people’s lives in danger,” said Officer Albie Esparza, adding that fires can spread quickly in the dense blocks of The City.

Esparza said the latest incident is being investigated by the arson unit, while police in a special unit that investigates hate crimes are handling the two prior vandalism cases. But they’ll be working together, he said.

Patrick Aubin, a Mission resident who lives near the mural, said firefighters were clawing out smouldering pieces of burnt material behind the paper mural when he arrived at the corner around 11:10 p.m. Monday night. Police were closing off the sidewalk with crime tape as smoke billowed from the wall, he said.

“The fire was was still smoldering from the canister they used to start the fire,” Aubin said. Police confirmed that some kind of fuel was used to start the fire, but could not say what.

“I had warned the Galeria, David Campos’ office, the landlord and the police that something like this might happened,” Aubin told the San Francisco Examiner. “There was a definite safety concern the past few weeks about putting the mural [up] a third time that the Galeria owner blatantly ignored.”

Esparza said people are encouraged to call the police to report any suspicious activity.

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