LAPD outside of Nicodim Gallery in Boyle Heights in October. Photo: Liz O. Baylen

Boyle Heights Galleries Vandalized as Anti-Gentrification Fight Continues

At least three galleries located in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles, have been vandalized in the last month, Brittny Mejia of the Los Angeles Times reports.

The police are investigating the incidents, including graffiti on Nicodim Gallery’s security grille that cursed “white art,” as possible hate crimes sparked by recent clashes between community members and gallery staff over gentrification concerns. No suspects have been identified.

Over the last three years, more than a dozen galleries have moved into the area. Residents are worried that property values will increase, causing them to be pushed out of the neighborhood. As previously reported, several meetings between members of the community, anti-gentrification activists, and gallery owners have been organized to address the issue.

The recent acts of vandalism prompted the LAPD to meet with gallery owners last week to better comprehend the situation and to strategize about how to create a healthy conversation with activist groups such as Defend Boyle Heights. LAPD Captain Rick Stabile said, “The reason why I want to facilitate a dialogue with Defend Boyle Heights is because when I started looking into this issue of gentrification and the art galleries, I saw the news articles, I saw the crime reports and I also saw the Defend Boyle Heights website and the videos they posted.”

The group’s website calls gentrification the “highest form of hate crime.” While it maintains its members were not responsible for the graffiti, it praises the acts of vandalism. Defend Boyle Heights said in a statement: “We don’t know who tagged up these galleries, but we . . . certainly don’t condemn it. It is right to rebel! We are glad to see the community rise up to resist displacement, art washing and gentrification—however they see fit! Your anger is justified.”

The police have asked galleries in the area to inform them before they host events such as openings so that the LAPD can assign additional patrols. “When it comes to protesting, absolutely you have a right to protest and there’s a legal way of protesting, and then there’s an illegal way,” Stabile said. “If any group crosses that line, that’s when they can get in trouble.”