BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — The LAPD is investigating another possible hate crime after someone spray-painted an obscenity followed by the words "white art" on the front of an art gallery.
The numbers 187 - the penal code for murder - at the top of the tag was also disturbing. Community activists have accused more than a dozen art galleries that recently moved into the mostly Hispanic neighborhood east of downtown L.A. of helping to drive up rents and pushing out the working class.
LAPD officials confirm there were three separate acts of vandalism against three different art galleries and all are being investigated as potential hate crimes.
In a statement, Defend Boyle Heights, one of the most vocal Boyle Heights anti-gentrification groups, denied any involvement in the vandalism: "We don't know who tagged up these galleries, but we 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 LAPD did have a meeting with art gallery owners last month, trying to gauge how many business owners felt they've been targeted by activists.
"They've been having protests here for the past year or more. None of the galleries want to get involved," said Mihai Nicodim, owner of the art gallery that got tagged.
No one at any of the art galleries contacted would comment on the issue or the vandalism, fearing for their safety and their livelihood.
Nicodim says he doesn't want anyone arrested and he also has no plans to leave Boyle Heights. He says protesters are going about this the wrong way.
"Two blocks away there are 1500 condos being built that could add to the area's gentrification," Nicodim said. "That's gonna have a far greater impact on gentrification than art galleries."
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