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DC police investigate vandalism of Bernie Sanders mural as a ‘hate crime’

DC police investigate vandalism of Bernie Sanders mural as a ‘hate crime’ after it was defaced with ‘alt-right’ Pepe the Frog

  •  D.C. police confirmed their investigation into the vandalism of the mural
  • Artist felt that the defacement may have been motivated by hate or political bias
  • In recent years, Pepe the Frog has become associated with the ‘Alt-right’ 

The vandalism of a mural of Bernie Sanders in Washington DC that was defaced with a picture of Pepe the Frog is being investigated as a hate crime, police have said.

D.C. police confirmed their investigation into the vandalism of the mural in the Navy Yard area.

They said that it was not clear exactly when the mural was defaced, with a police report listing December 15, 2020 to January 14, 2021 as a possible time period.

Before: Mural artists Monolith (left) and Shani Shih work on their piece ‘Bern the System,’ which was completed in Feb. 2020 at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C

After: The mural was vandalized with a Pepe the frog head, which has risen the digital ranks via the alt-right as a symbol of white supremacy and white nationalist hate

After: The mural was vandalized with a Pepe the frog head, which has risen the digital ranks via the alt-right as a symbol of white supremacy and white nationalist hate

Police were called to investigate the vandalism on Sunday by one of the artists, who felt ‘that the defacement may be motivated by hate or bias of political or religious affiliation’, according to a report in Fox 5

In recent years, the cartoon image of a frog known as Pepe has become associated with the ‘Alt-right’ or white supremacist groups.

Members of such groups co-opted the image as an expression of their views, spreading it on internet forums such as 8chan and Reddit.

Mural artist Shani Shih shares photos on Instagram of her work with fellow artist Moniolith, titled 'Bern the System,' completed in Feb. 2020 at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The mural was recently defaced and the head of Bernie Sanders was replaced with that of Pepe the Frog

Mural artist Shani Shih shares photos on Instagram of her work with fellow artist Moniolith, titled ‘Bern the System,’ completed in Feb. 2020 at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The mural was recently defaced and the head of Bernie Sanders was replaced with that of Pepe the Frog

‘Obviously Pepe was created in a very innocent way,’ Anti-Defamation League Vice President and head of Washington ADL office Doron Ezickson told the news outlet. 

However, he said that the cartoon has become synonymous with the rise of the ‘Alt-right’ and other hate groups.

‘The appropriation of that symbol somehow became an expression of power by the individuals that were doing it and then it spread over the internet and different chat rooms and 8chan and Reddit and some of the places where ‘Alt-Right’ and white supremacists folks find each other and share ideas and share strategies,’ Ezickson said. 

The mural has since been fixed by its artists, who also added a new phrase: ‘Hate has no home here.’ 

Pepe the Frog: From innocuous cartoon to alt-right symbol  

Pepe the Frog originated in a 2005 comic by Matt Furie called Boy’s Club. 

Furie posted his comic in a series of blog posts on Myspace in 2005 after creating it using Microsoft Paint. 

It became an Internet meme when its popularity steadily grew across Myspace, Gaia Online and 4chan in 2008. 

Pepe the Frog originated in a 2005 comic by Matt Furie called Boy's Club

Pepe the Frog originated in a 2005 comic by Matt Furie called Boy’s Club

From 2010 onward, the cartoon was appropriated as a symbol of the alt-right movement and white supremecy. 

The cartoon’s creator, Furie, has condemned the usage of Pepe in this manner, and has sued organisations for doing so. 

During the 2016 Presidential Election, the meme was connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Trump even retweeted a Pepe representation of himself, associated with a video called ‘You Can’t Stump the Trump (Volume 4)’.

In September 2016, an article published on Hillary Clinton’s campaign website described Pepe as ‘a symbol associated with white supremacy’ and denounced Trump’s campaign for its supposed promotion of the meme. 

In an interview with Esquire, Furie spoke about how his cartoon had been adopted as an alt-right symbol. 

‘It sucks, but I can’t control it more than anyone can control frogs on the Internet,’ he said.  

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