Council addresses vandalism in Bellefonte Borough
BELLEFONTE — The vandalism that took place on the second weekend of 2021 at Jake’s Cards and Games in Bellefonte continues to send shock waves through the community.
The mural was vandalized on Jan. 8 with messages of hate from the same white supremacist group that left stickers throughout downtown State College recently.
The vandalism occurred in the wake of the Capitol riot that occurred in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Someone used stencils and spray paint to deface Bellefonte’s Pride wall mural with the website of the white supremacist group Patriot Front in numerous places as well as an image of the United States with one of the group’s slogans, “Not stolen, conquered.”
Patriot Front, a white supremacist group that calls for American fascism and white nationalism, formed after breaking away from a similar organization, Vanguard America, following the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies it as a hate group.
However, the mural was not defaced for long as members of the Bellefonte community turned out in force and re-painted the mural on Saturday, Jan. 9.
At this week’s borough council meeting, council president Joanne Tosti-Vasey addressed the violence at the Capitol and the subsequent vandalism in Bellefonte.
“Unlawful actions that we saw last week should not be occurring in the United States of America and have no place in Bellefonte Borough. Remember that both spoken and written words affect the actions of others as they can inspire or incite. Vandalism occurred in Bellefonte in the wake of the Capitol riot. It was heart-lifting to see our community members come together to repaint a vandalized Pride flag mural in downtown Bellefonte. We thank you for your display of respect and sense of community,” Tosti-Vasey said.
Tosti-Vasey said that peaceful protests are permitted. However, vandalism crosses the line.
“Our responsibility as elected officials is to support federal, state and local laws enacted to protect our residents, businesses and properties. This borough council has given the Bellefonte Police Department the direction that should a peaceful protest occurring here in town turn into unlawful acts, the police will deal with it according to the law. The Bellefonte Police Department will use every resource available to ensure our community’s safety during any lawful, peaceful protest. For the safety of protest participants and property protection, all local, state and federal laws will be enforced, and those involved will be dealt with accordingly,” Tosti-Vasey said.
Council vice-president Randy Brachbill also spoke.
“I want to support the comments (made) by our council president,” Brachbill said. “In January, 2021, we witnessed a protest due to an election which also turned unlawful, causing injury, death and damage. I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America …. (when we took) our oath, we swore to protect the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution allows for peaceful protest and I respect and support that right.”
President Pro Temp Doug Johnson agreed with his fellow board members that hate has no place in Bellefonte.
“Your words were well-spoken and I agree with them wholeheartedly,” Johnson said. “I know the three of us took time to compose these statements and we feel very strongly in what we’ve said. I appreciate your efforts in composing that statement and I support them 100 percent.”
Several council members, along with borough manager Ralph Stewart thanked Tosti-Vasey, Brachbill and Johnson for their comments.
Borough council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1. The meeting will be held via Zoom and televised by C-NET.