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Mural meant to highlight Highland Park, N.J.'s diversity vandalized twice in less than a week

Mural meant to highlight N.J. community's diversity defaced twice in less than a week 02:00

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. -- A mural meant to highlight one community's diversity was defaced twice just days after the artwork was completed.

The mural in Highland Park is titled, "Home Is Where We Make It." It was completed late last week, but by Saturday it was defaced multiple times, CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported.

Anthony Redmen had watched as it was being painted.

"People were stopping by talking among themselves, the community. It was just a nice social atmosphere when she was doing it. To come back and see this, it's like terrible," said Redmen, who lives in Somerset.

Highland Park police are investigating this as a case of criminal mischief.

"People need to learn how to accept change a little bit more," said New Brunswick resident Jazz G.

The artist behind the project, Amrisa Niranjan, told Rincon she's startled, adding, "Many people said kind things during the installation. However, many people said hateful things. I was referenced as a racist and a Nazi by individuals who approached me while I was working.

"Public art can often be a mirror for a community, and if you are in this community and don't like this reflection of your home, now is a perfect time to stand up against any hatred," Niranjan added.

The mural was meant to highlight recent resettlement efforts for asylum seekers and refugees and serve as a reminder as the town's welcoming history. Many have now been left frustrated by what has happened.

"That's a hate crime. That's a hate crime right there," said Shauna Figueroa

"I'm shocked, let's put it that way. I am shocked," said Rochelle Blum of Highland Park.

"I don't think it's representative of the community or the people that live here at all," Samantha Blum added.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the graffiti, saying incidents in New Jersey have been on the rise.

"It's just to drive a wedge between people, and it's just not right," said CAIRs Dylan Terpstra.

The one bright spot has been the community response.

"We didn't have to point it out to anyone that this is a problem. The local community understood that from the very beginning," Terpstra said.

Over the weekend, more than 100 people came out for an impromptu rally to show their support for the artist, the mural, and what it stands for.

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