The Democratic Mayor of Salem, Oregon – Chuck Bennett – has ordered the removal of a private business owner’s mural depicting the iconic, patriotic flag-raising at Iwo Jima during WWII. The mural is painted on the side of Valley Roofing in Salem, Oregon, which is privately owned by local businessman Jon Taylor.
Taylor commissioned the mural from local artist Mario Jr. DeLeon. Many of Taylor’s friends and family have served in the U.S. military, and the piece was designed to honor them and other Americans who have and are currently serving.
Local veterans said of Taylor, “[he] does a lot for this community both personally and through his business. He is a true credit to our fine city and a shining example of the sort of person we should all want as a neighbor and community leader.”
Nevertheless, the City of Salem cited a single, anonymous complaint about the mural and demanded its removal.
Should the artwork not be removed, Taylor will initially be fined more than $200. The only alternative to removal of the mural and the fines associated was the city removing the piece and giving it, free of charge, to a local art group.
The news represents yet another example of extreme government overreach from Oregon’s far-left leadership.
The mural is painted directly onto the outer wall of the property owned by Taylor, so it is unclear how the city would remove the piece in order to give it to a currently unnamed art society without completely destroying Taylor’s building and business.
DeLeon, the artist, said, “Even when we help fight the wars, they don’t want us to be talking about our contribution.”
A petition to save the mural has already amassed around 7,000 signatures. The petition seeks to raise awareness of the city council’s harassment of local business owners, like Taylor, who seek to “beautify the city through both art and deeds.”
Mayor Bennett, a career politician, claims to be a supporter of the arts having served as a board member of a local theater and the Council for the Humanities. He came under recent scrutiny for failure to act as “far-right” and far-left groups clashed throughout his city. This led to an investigation of the local police force, the results of which still have not been made public.
In late 2021, Mayor Bennett announced that he would not be seeking reelection in 2022. However, he and other key decision makers such as Salem’s Ward 3 Councilor Trevor Phillips can decide to allow an exemption following the single complaint.