LA GRANDE — A billboard in La Grande featuring a Black Lives Matter logo was defaced with white paint last weekend.
The sign was erected after a crowdfunding effort in August 2020 raised $5,000. Maria Carmichael, who led that effort, said she’d expected the billboard to be vandalized sooner or later.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m not at all surprised,” Carmichael said. “If anything, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner given all of the vitriol that was spewed in response to the sign going up in the first place. There were threats to shoot it, to paintball it, to burn it down, and it wasn’t just a few people saying that.”
A tidal wave of social media engagement — much of it emotionally charged — also met The Observer’s coverage of the then-incoming billboard.
The Black Lives Matter sign was initially slated to be put up in a different location but was moved to the billboard along Interstate 84 because it was “less accessible” and would be more difficult to vandalize, Carmichael said.
She indicated she would support reporting the vandalism to law enforcement, but the decision ultimately fell to Meadow Advertising, the company based in The Dalles that owns the billboard.
“If they are OK with me making a report, I would like to do that,” she said.
Carmichael is wasting no time, however, in trying to find out who is responsible.
“I am actively seeking information from people, if they happened to see anything posted on social media, hear of anything about the vandalism,” she said. “It is a small town, but it’s also located right on the freeway.”
The vandalism of the Black Lives Matter billboard follows the insurrection at the United States Capitol building Wednesday, Jan. 6. Five people died as a result of the riot, including one United States Capitol Police officer whom the mob dragged and beat.
Conspiracy theories circulating on social media are that some accused Black Lives Matter and Antifa supporters posed as supporters of President Donald Trump during the riot. Myriad outlets, among them the Associated Press, Politifact, Reuters and USA Today, quickly debunked those claims. Fox News also acknowledged there is no evidence to support those conspiracy theories.
Carmichael said the insurrection may have contributed to the vandal’s motivation, but the hate for the Black Lives Matter symbol was in place long before the events of Jan. 6.
“I would say that (the U.S. Capitol riot) probably emboldened whoever did it, but again, there were hundreds of terrible remarks on social media,” Carmichael said.
The defaced vinyl on the billboard has been taken down and will be replaced in the coming weeks, Carmichael said, as soon as replacement vinyl can be produced and arrives in La Grande.