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Volunteers from the protests clean off graffiti on the memorial. Courtesy Facebook.

Many Fort Worth citizens have been marching peacefully for 10 days, vowing no end until the African-American community’s demands are met. One of the demands has been the reallocation of funds for the Fort Worth police department. The community has presented City Council with many proposals, all of which emphasize the reallocation of funds into underserved minority communities and educational programs instead of the police force.

On Monday at 10 a.m., the Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association posted on its Facebook page photos of the vandalized Fort Worth Police and Firefighters Memorial in Trinity Park. “Overnight,” the caption read, “the Fort Worth Police and Firefighters Memorial was vandalized by criminals, causing significant damage to the stone walls and sidewalks.”

An hour later, the post had been edited with the addition of a donation button, claiming that “all funds will be used by the Fort Worth Police and Firefighters Memorial to repair the damage,” despite the fact that the spray paint had been cleaned at 8 a.m., two hours before the post, by members of the Fort Worth Graffiti Abatement Program, a service provided by the city of Fort Worth that removes graffiti for its residents at no cost.

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The memorial, designed by the Fort Worth architecture firm Gideon Toal and erected on June 5, 2009, is designated as a nonprofit organization. The organization claims it receives “a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public” and its maintenance is overseen by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The post itself has incited outrage as the donations now exceed $25,000.

Comments questioned the necessity of asking for donations despite having the money for it.

The officers’ association has deleted all of the comments disagreeing with the fundraiser.

According to the city’s 2020 budget, Fort Worth is allocating $1,435,755 for general operation and maintenance expenses under its Environmental Protection Fund, which covers community cleanups. The Crime Control and Prevention District (CCPD), with a budget of $85,733,428, funds the Fort Worth Graffiti Abatement Program.

Other commenters and community members questioned where the money would be going due to the disproportionate amount of money raised to the cost of a cleanup. Some community members have even reached out to the officers’ association via Facebook offering to clean the graffiti for free and asking for the donations to be sent to the Black Lives Matter movement or to the fund of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old pre-medical undergraduate student from Fort Worth who was fatally shot by an officer while babysitting her nephew in her home.

A Fort Worth resident, who requested to remain anonymous, was one of the outraged who personally messaged the officers’ association offering a free cleanup. The police group saw the message but has not replied, he said.

Hours after the controversial post, the officers’ association edited their caption to say, “Any remaining funds will be used for annual maintenance of the walls and memorial grounds.”

The officers’ association has not responded to calls for comment.

Ayah Hamza is a Fort Worth medical student who hopes to focus on global health and vulnerable populations in her future career as a physician.

 

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