Victoria Police Chief Del Manak says recent changes to a controversial mural in Bastion Square are “as offensive, if not more so” than the original anti-police message they replaced.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Manak said he was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome of negotiations between the city and the artists.
“In my opinion, the divisive message contained in this artwork is inaccurate, misinformed and disrespectful,” he said.
“It is an affront to the women and men of the Victoria Police Department, who serve our communities with integrity, compassion and honour.”
After weeks of talks with the city, the artists agreed this week to paint over the acronym ACAB, which commonly refers to All Cops Are Bastards or All Cops Are Bad.
The acronym, which spurred controversy after it was first noticed in August, appeared inside a large letter “S” within the city-sponsored More Justice, More Peace mural, a joint effort by 17 artists to raise awareness of injustices suffered by Black and Indigenous people, and people of colour.
The artists decided to cover the entire letter “S” with a black rectangle containing an eagle feather and the words: “This letter has been censored by the City of Victoria influenced by the Victoria Police Department. In doing so, Victoria is contributing to the silencing of Black and Indigenous voices and experiences across this land.”
Manak’s statement acknowledged that systemic racism exists across Canada, but said the revised mural disregards the work that his officers are doing to make the community better through inclusion and dialogue.
Mural organizer Charity Williams said Friday evening that she had yet to see the chief’s statement, so was unable to provide immediate comment.
Earlier in the week, she said there were “mixed feelings” about how the dispute over the acronym was resolved. “It is a bit disappointing that our original true message is being erased and kind of disregarded in a way,” she said.
“But, also, in this process we’ve had many conversations with the city and with city staff, and I feel like we are going in the right direction.”
City manager Jocelyn Jenkyns said in a statement at the time that the mural remains “an honest representation of the artists’ experience.”
She acknowledged the feelings expressed by people on both sides of the debate and said the city is committed to supporting artists and public art.
Manak was unavailable for interviews and the police department said the chief’s statement will be his only comment on the mural.