Kensington neighbors are overpowering hateful graffiti in their community with a stronger message: love and acceptance.
Jason Douglas-Hiley has lived in Kensington for years, and he crosses the pedestrian bridge near Monroe and Terrace regularly.
Over the weekend, he saw pieces of Christmas wrapping paper taped along the pathway. When he looked closely, he saw they were covering up swastikas, white supremacy symbols and numbers.
"It’s awful, and it’s sad,” said a Normal Heights couple, Melanie and Gence Berisha, as they were walking their dog over the bridge.
Neighbors noticed the graffiti, and through online groups, banded together to cover up the hateful messages with messages of acceptance.
"See," said Douglas-Hiley. "'Love thy neighbors.'"
San Diego Police and the City’s Graffiti Removal arrived Sunday afternoon to start documenting the hateful messages. In order to document the messages, they had to remove the wrapping paper with positive messages to take photographs of the symbols.
SDPD Detective David Abrams said they are investigating the incident and plan to have the graffiti removed on Monday.
Many community members crossing the bridge on Sunday found the messages disturbing, especially for a neighborhood they called accepting and diverse.
“It’s disturbing,” said Kensington resident Ronnie Mathis. Mathis said his 13-year-old son crosses the footbridge daily and he doesn’t want him seeing these symbols.
“We moved here three months ago because this is a great neighborhood and diverse,” said Mathis.
The neighbors did appreciate, however, how Good Samaritans rushed to cover up the messages -- and the hand-written messages of love on top of the paper.
“It said ‘celebrate diversity’ and ‘one love,’” Melanie and Gence Berisha said.
When residents Mathis and Hiley noticed the paper coming off, they worked to press it back down again.
The neighbors plan to keep the paper down and wait until the messages get removed by police because they want their words to have an impact.
“That may be one bad grape in the whole neighborhood (that is) full of love,” said Mathis.
Hiley, who lives near the bridge, had a message for the people who wrote the hateful graffiti: “You're not wanted in our neighborhood."
California State law states if someone is convicted of a graffiti related hate crime, it is a felony charged, and they could face up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.