There were gasps and looks of amazement on many faces as they watched the unveiling of the police department’s new mural.
It contrasted the gasps and looks of shock when they saw the anti-police rhetoric spray painted over the unfinished mural three months ago. Rather, Friday afternoon – despite the cool weather and cloudy skies – was a proud and happy day for the nearly 150 people who watched police officers release the tarp covering the mural.
It features police officers, past and present, working in the community. An eagle, holding a purple ribbon, is flying over a N.C. flag and the words, “United We Stand.”
The theme of the mural is “courage,” artist Vince Wood said, but it is open for interpretation.
Police Chief Brandon Zuidema called mural “awesome.”
“It’s a proud day for me personally and professionally as a chief,” Zuidema said. “But it’s really a proud day for this community. This mural was an important piece for me to make this a part of Garner, because that is who this community is. It’s about things being different and special, and about people. And that’s what’s portrayed on there.”
Elaine Horvath, who lives outside of Garner, brought some of her children along with her.
“We wanted to come and see what it was like,” Horvath said. “I think it’s great and awesome. That guy’s really talented.
For many in the community, it was a time to come together.
Three months ago, someone vandalized the new police station’s mural with graffiti that said “Kill a cop save a child.” The new mural had not been completed yet.
The news of the vandalism made national headlines. Zuidema vowed that if the suspect was caught, the police department would seek the harshest punishment possible under the law. A $5,000 reward still stands for anyone with information leading to the arrest. The department has since installed cameras and a fence to surround the mural.
The police department set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the repairs to the mural.
As soon as the page was posted, donations from the community and people saying they wanted to help started to pour in.
Many people left messages on the page with their donations voicing their support for the Garner Police Department and Wood. Wood, who first noticed the vandalism when he went to work on the mural, had spent 150 hours on the mural. In just two days, the department had raised $3,040 before shutting down the page.
“It speaks to the Garner people,” Mayor Ronnie Williams said. “They rebound well. What happened to the mural happened and we can’t change that. But everybody pulled together and raised the money and it speaks well to the Garner people.”
Although the goal was to raise $2,000 to repair the damage, Wood said he would donate the rest to the Garner Police Athletic Activities League (PAAL).
Wood said he finished the mural at 10 p.m. Thursday, three months after the vandal struck. Wood said he would make the mural better than it was before.
“It matters because I grew up here,” Wood said. “I used to walk these streets. Families, when I was going through hard times, took care of me in this town. I was raised by this town. Without this town I would not be alive.”
Wood said his art is his voice.
“For this project, my voice is going to allow me to say thank you to this town and the police department,” he said.