By Laura Haefeli

MARYSVILLE (CBS13) — A pedestrian tunnel in Marysville was the site of racist graffiti. A mural there that was painted in 2018 by a local artist was destroyed.

The Yuba Sutter Arts and Culture Council, which is responsible for creating the mural in 2018, was deeply hurt by the racist markings.

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“The school district decided to light it up, pipe classical music into the tunnel and they wanted to create a mural,” said David Read, the executive director of the Yuba Sutter Arts and Culture Council.

Now, the 100-foot long mural is covered in graffiti. Swastikas and other symbols of hate were spray painted across it.

“It was most unpleasant and a little bit frightening to regular residents in the community,” Read said.

He’s hoping Marysville police charges a suspect with a hate crime. But how likely is that?

“Not all hateful behavior qualifies as a hate crime,” said Sacramento attorney Michelle Trigger.

Trigger says a hate crime is hateful behavior combined with a criminal act.

“[It’s] behavior that’s targeted at somebody due to gender sexuality race ethnicity,” she said. “If you have vandalism like the KKK signals, that’s going to qualify as a hate crime.”

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In Marysville’s neighboring town of Wheatland, just weeks ago, high school students posted photos on social media with swastikas painted on their body. That’s an example of a hate incident, not a hate crime.

“It’s not illegal to post on social media,” Trigger said.

Yuba County only reported two hate crimes to the California Department of Justice in 2020.

Trigger says that number is much lower than it should be because the DOJ only requires hate crimes be reported, not hate incidents.

“Most of what we’re actually seeing in communities is just not reportable. They’re happy to be behind a computer screen saying hateful things but they’re not brazen enough to go out and commit actual crimes,” Trigger said. “Somebody that would like to live in the community, they’re going to see an unfair picture.”

She says the inaccurate reporting could also prevent funding used to combat hate crimes.

“Potentially, these communities aren’t getting funding or education or certain task forces,” Trigger said.

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The arts and culture council does intend to paint over the mural and is asking for security cameras to be installed inside the tunnel.