November 15, 2016 5:54 AM   Subscribe

What are some clever ideas for covering up a giant graffiti swastika on the side of an abandoned school?

First off- yeah, whatever I do will end up being misdemeanor trespassing and whatever they charge people for tagging nowadays. I know that, and I'm ready to accept those consequences as are, apparently, a number of older retirees in my neighborhood.

I live in a fairly quite suburb not far outside Milwaukee, and a nearby grade school closed down in the early 2000s and has been left to slowly return to the earth. It is well boarded up, but that hasn't stopped the locals from using the less visible sides for all sorts of graffiti. Some of it is quite good.

I'm not talking about these- I'm more interested in the six foot high swastika someone recently sprayed on a second story wall facing the main, heavily-trafficked road.

I've been thinking about reaching back into my misspent youth and pulling up some bad habits to go and remove or modify it.

Shockingly, today I found out that my 60 something retired neighbor is so bothered by it that /she/ was planning on going after it which - apart from being awesome - is probably not ideal for her - she has a bad back and rooftop hopping isn't something she should be venturing into. I guess there are a bunch of others in the area that also want it gone or replaced.

And I'm more than happy to throw myself at it.

Thing is- there is no power and no water so the initial idea of using a pressure washer to spray it off isn't an option.

I've looked online at ways that other people have creatively converted swastikas to something else, and I have a few ideas, but I know that this is a crazy creative crowd, and I'm hoping you'll come up with something better.

So far, my ideas have included:

- Turning it into a giant tic-tac-toe board
- Replacing it with a giant smiley face - this would be completely covering it up rather than reusing it
- Some form of pink flamingos (I love this but I need something I can do easily)
- A big red NO circle and slash through it (simple, fast, but booooring).
- the LolLolLolLol pattern that google images will pull up if you search for answers to this question.
- Matching the paint with the color of the bricks and "erasing it" - my fear is that all this will do is make a bigger brown swastika when it dries

My caveats -

While I'm more than willing to catch legal heat for this, I'd really rather not. So I'd like it to be as much of a hit-and-run as possible.

It's on a second floor wall with another building attached, so it is kinda like a big billboard, it also means I'm a bit limited in what I can bring with me - I'm not using a ladder so it'll have to fit into a backpack, but I'm not going to be balancing on a ledge either.

From the sounds of it, I could have a crew of retirees to act as lookouts, but as fun as that would be, I'm just as happy going it completely alone.

I'd like it to be something that pushes back at the intent behind it, but that might be asking a bit much for a quick hit. I thought about a peace symbol, but between the two, I think the smiley might be more fun.

Still, that's why I've come to the hive-mind. Any ideas?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Turn it into a MS Windows logo.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:58 AM on November 15, 2016 [36 favorites]

Turn it into a version of the old Love postage stamp.
Advantages: quick to do, on message.
posted by plinth at 6:01 AM on November 15, 2016 [61 favorites]

A colorful pinwheel!
posted by dinty_moore at 6:06 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

An internet friend of mine started Repaint Hate, which are professional artists and sign-painters that are going out and painting over hate speech and symbols. There are some ideas on the FB page and they may actually know someone local to you who has the tools and skills to come out and paint over this themselves.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2016 [23 favorites]

My first thought was a fast rubik's cube, but that's pretty paint heavy.
posted by eisforcool at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2016

Windows '95 logo.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Has anyone approached the local school board about having it removed? Is there a local synagogue that might add its support to you and your neighbors?

If any of your neighbors contact the school board let it be the neighbor least likely to participate in the community art project.
posted by mareli at 6:08 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Circle and bar is fine. Yes, it's easy. But it's also an explicitly anti fascist statement, which a cutesy windows logo or whatever isn't. Be explicitly anti fascist. It's important.
posted by Ted Maul at 6:16 AM on November 15, 2016 [69 favorites]

Report it as a hate crime and let the local authorities handle it? Although likely then it blows up as a news story. Which inadvertently promotes the idea.

Agree the red circle and slash is awesomely underrated in this instance and it will look satisfying to all who behold it that love their fellow humans.
posted by jbenben at 6:26 AM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I saw one turned into the Win95 logo. I was really impressed. I wish I could find the guy/gal who did it and give them a big hug.
posted by james33 at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2016

If you get caught, I'm happy to contribute to your legal defense fund or help you pay the fine. Figure out a way to get the word out if you get caught and need help before you attempt this.

Also, can you use some type of telescoping rod??
posted by jbenben at 6:29 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Milwaukee has an Anti-Graffiti Program. Maybe contact them to find out if they have resources for surrounding suburbs? Otherwise, they have tips for materials to use to cover it up or remove it, if that helps.
posted by quarterinmyshoe at 6:37 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

"The Antifascist Circle (German: Antifaschistischer Freundeskreis) is a logo designed by Sergei Chakhotin - former assistant to the physiologist Ivan Pavlov - in 1931 for the 1930s German anti-fascist organization Iron Front. The logo was designed to be able to easily cover up Nazi swastikas."
posted by ocherdraco at 6:47 AM on November 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

It probably occurred to you too, but the people who did this might be watching it. Apart from legal problems, I would be worried also about those people catching you. Maybe have some muscle guarding you, such that they wouldn't be caught by police, but would be ready to assist if somebody comes at you?
posted by StrawberryPie at 6:47 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I live in Milwaukee. I think you need to report this and work to get it removed, vs. trying to cover it up. I have some connections on the County Board of Supervisors, who I am certain would be willing and interested in helping to get rid of this. Let me know if you need an introduction.
posted by sulaine at 6:52 AM on November 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

Engage better graffiti artist to cover it with better art?
posted by bunderful at 6:58 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another window (not Windows logo) vote.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:03 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

So there are portable pressure washers that you can use to remove graffiti. They recently used one at a local mountain (Mt. Tom) to remove years of graffiti. Of course the Trump culture ascension instantly produced more and worse graffiti, but they're raising more funds to get back and do it again. Maybe everyone in your neighborhood can avoid jail time and/or injury!
posted by clone boulevard at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would pursue this via the appropriate authorities first -- if you can even just get permission to do the thing you can avoid answering a crime with another crime. I can see this being a bit of a fight, the first instinct of any bureaucrat would be to say no in order to avoid liability, so you might have to push to get to the right person to talk to.

There was a kind of funny scene from Oz that I'm not going to google because I'm at work, but Toby is getting advice to Chris about what to do with the swastika branding on a sensitive region of his body before a conjugal visit. I remember that the window involved the least amount of extra pain(t) (4 straight lines) but the flower looked pretty also.

Thank you for taking the initiative to do something to make your community a better place.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:08 AM on November 15, 2016

Years ago my honey and I once spray-painted over a swastika that had been painted on the side of a park building in Stockholm. We did it at night during a cold winter and it felt like it took forever and we were terrified of being caught. I think the circle and slash is the best approach to start with, particularly since it is bothering your neighbor so much. And after you do that, I think you should approach the appropriate authorities. Because in my experience, the wheels of justice often move slowly. So I recommend doing the quick hit and then contacting the authorities. And holler if you need bail or fine money, I will totally kick in.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

lowest key - paint it our with brick-colored or building colored paint
posted by theora55 at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

the best possible cover-up is a beautiful mural of a multicultural group of people beating a white supremacist with big sticks but as that would be unreasonably labor-intensive then the barred circle is fine.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2016 [23 favorites]

Nthing calling your local authorities. Our suburban-Chicago town has a graffiti removal task force. But I really like poffin-boffin's imagery.
posted by sarajane at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2016

Do not replace a symbol of fascism with a symbol of capitalism (windows logo). Being antifascist is too important right now to muddy the waters.

Circle with a slash right through it or the antifascist circle symbol linked above.
posted by sockermom at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

How about flamingos through a window? I love the symbolism of completely re-wiring their message into a win-win-win situation (for them, us, the site of the image). Here's How to draw a flamingo in 8 easy steps. Or a stencil might work.
posted by at at 10:58 AM on November 15, 2016

: "Matching the paint with the color of the bricks and "erasing it" - my fear is that all this will do is make a bigger brown swastika when it dries"

If you use a bucket of paint, a tray and a roller you could cover 36 sq ft in a couple minutes and while you are unlikely to perfectly match the brick (if only because the paint will be uniform and the brick not) you are left with a plain 6' square rather than a symbol of hate.

I'd try official channels first but a paint roller would be my clandestine attack method.
posted by Mitheral at 11:15 AM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My friend the graffiti artist suggests using an overall, a hi-vis survest and hard hat, plus something that looks like an ID in a neck ID holder, and doing it during the day. You'll look official and people will be reluctant or won't even think of calling the cops on you.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 11:22 AM on November 15, 2016 [18 favorites]

Instead of using paint could you get some rolls of duct tape and make a pattern with the tape?

Or tape up sonetbing to cover the image?
posted by MadMadam at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2016

Don't ask for permission- forgiveness is at a premium these days too. I vote for the smiley face. Wish I could be there to help and good luck to you and your brave-ass self!
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 1:02 PM on November 15, 2016

I think I know the school you're talking about, and while covertly covering it up crossed my mind, I think there's something to be said to giving the school district/city/etc an opportunity to clean up the paint themselves. I'd hate to create more work for whoever is responsible for taking care of the building. If I have time today I think I'll actually call around and ask what the deal is, unless that's a bad idea for some reason?

That said, if it's not dealt with in about a week or so, I'd love to show up with a clipboard and hardhat and help the cover-up look official. Let me know!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:18 PM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you contact the authorities, they'll be more likely to keep a closer eye on the place for repeat offenders. If they rebuff you, message me on Facebook and I'll see what I can do to connect you with an artist.
posted by AFABulous at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I saw on the web yesterday where some turned a swastika into an old school windows 95 logo.
posted by tman99 at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2016

I would call your local Jewish association and see if they can help. I did this with some similar graffiti and they had someone out within the day to remove it. This is if you want to do the legal thing, not the creative and interesting thing.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:17 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really like the idea of approaching this in a public, administrative, bureaucratic, public relations style. Talk to your nearest synagogue, as someone else mentioned. Report it to the authorities. Call the local press. Make something of the experience--something public that can be used as a discussion point.

Otherwise, my urge would be to borrow or rent a paintball gun and go to town on it from afar. Rainbow pointillism.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Merely covering it up will not do anything to discourage them from doing it again. Nazi wanna-bes are usually extremely homophobic. Perhaps writing something underneath along the lines of "GAY NAZIS FOR TRUMP" might dissuade them from a repeat performance.
posted by ambulocetus at 5:48 PM on November 16, 2016

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