A group of recent Clifton High School grads – led by May Yuasa, 19 – painted murals on both sides of a Garden State Parkway underpass in Passaic County last week after getting permission and design approval from city officials.
The original design included five fists of different color skin tones to represent all races coming together, Yuasa said in a Wednesday Facebook post.
Four days after painting began, the first fist was completed, which fired up some residents who took offense to the ‘politically-motivated’ symbol and demanded it come down.
That forced Yuasa to change the design.
Instead of the five fists, she included two hands of different colors making a heart and two hands of different colors clasped together with the words ‘USE YOUR VOICE.’
‘I altered the part of the design that I did not already paint on the wall so that it would be more palatable for the city and the people who complained,’ Yuasa said.
But she kept the one fist that was already finished. DPW workers painted over the fist with a white rectangle. That second alteration remains in place.
On the other side of the underpass, four children of different races are holding hands with the words ‘INFINITE POSSIBILITIES’ painted over them.
This was the original concept by May Yuasa, 19, who said each fist was meant to represent people of all races coming together
This was the changed design, where Yuasa kept the one BLM-inspired fist
The fist was painted over by DPW workers with a white box that some in the city and on social media are calling censorship
This mural is painted on the other side of the underpass, and has not received any complaints
Yuasa and her friends paint a mural on Garden State Parkway underpass in Passaic County
City Manager Dominick Villano told NJ.com (NJ Advance Media), ‘When we start making political statements, we’re opening up a can of worms.’
‘This is public property. We have to tread lightly,’ he added.
Yuasa said on Facebook that she met with Villano for two days to alter the design but ‘was ordered to completely paint over the fist because of the continued outrage.’
The teenage artist and civil engineering student at Cornell University said Villano ‘issued a warning’ that the mural would be painted over if the fists were included.
Villano told NJ.com that he thought the white box ‘was better (to see) something that promotes peace, happiness or love.’
Yuasa said she’s proud of the design but ‘regrets changing it just to please those that were offended.’
‘I kept the fist that was part of the original approved design. After I finished, I wrote an email so they could reconsider painting over the fist but they did not.’
Clifton residents and supporters flocked to social media to back Yuasa and her friends’ work, especially on the Facebook page ‘Clifton News and Community,’ where they’re organizing to pressure the city council to keeping Yuasa’s original design.
Yuasa posted a video standing next to the mural on Instagram Wednesday morning and said in accompanying post that the Clifton’s officials ‘would rather cater to a privileged few than represent the community equally and respectfully.’
The video was made before the fist was painted over but the post was written after.
People on social media, like this Twitter user, objected to the censorship of the BLM-fist
‘I told city officials that if the council and involved departments decide to cover the mural, it shows what kind of community our city government has decided to represent.
‘Not the dozens of volunteers who worked tirelessly to help create this mural, nor the hundreds of supporters who cheered us on as we painted, nor the diverse and welcoming community that I continue to have pride in.’
Clifton has a diverse population of 85,000, according to the latest available Census data, of which 68 percent are white, 38 percent are Hispanic, 9.5percent are Asian and 5.3percent are black.
DailyMail.com called Villano and left a message for Yuasa for comment.
May Yuasa’s Wednesday Facebook post in the group ‘Clifton News and Community,’ where they’re organizing to pressure the city council to keeping Yuasa’s original design