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Edmonds community restores 'I Can't Breathe' installation after vandalism

Within hours, community members rallied behind a young Edmonds artist to fix the damage to her art installation inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

EDMONDS, Wash. — A new art installation in Edmonds, symbolizing a cry for justice was vandalized, just one week after it was created. 

”It's to be expected. I think, I was definitely expecting some backlash,” said Christabel Jamison, the artist behind the "I Can't Breathe" art installation. 

Jamison is not letting the message behind her art installation get lost, just one day after someone blacked out the "T" in the phrase, "I Can't Breathe," installed on a fence across from the Edmonds Police Station.  

RELATED: Edmonds artist creates 'I Can't Breathe' installation to send a message to her community

Those words have been a longtime rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Those words were among the last that George Floyd said before he was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis during an arrest earlier this year. Floyd's death sparked international protests calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

They also were the last words of Eric Garner, who was killed by police officers in New York City six years ago.

"The act behind it is very clear and it kind of just goes to show like why I created it, which was to bring awareness, the struggle that Black community faces,” Jamison said. 

According to Edmonds Police, just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday, witnesses reported a man vandalizing the display and provided police with the suspect's license plate. 

Charges were then referred to the prosecutor. 

Once the word started to spread about the act of vandalism, community members sprung into action to fix the damage.

Mayor Mike Nelson met with Jamison at the art installation to express his support and apologized on behalf of the city.

"It was great honestly to have that many people behind me have my back,” Jamison said.

The act of vandalism was a topic that took center stage during Tuesday's city council meeting. 

"The cry for justice in the Black community will not be silenced in Edmonds, it’s going to be amplified,” said Mayor Nelson during Tuesday's council meeting. 

Other council members voiced their support for Jamison's artwork and the message behind the art installation. 

"There are many admins who do support the fight for justice. However, our words, and our actions need to get louder and stronger. We have work to do,” said Councilmember Laura Johnson.

Edmonds resident Alicia Crank expressed optimism after being asked if the city was moving in the right direction when it comes to tackling racism.

"Encouraged is a word," Crank said. "I don't know if it's the right word, I think I feel like it's a one step forward two steps back, you know. You know that you started at 4 o'clock in the afternoon with, you know, learning of this defacing, and then at 6 o'clock somehow, the community responded to fix it and I'm encouraged by that.” 

Nelson says he's asking the park's department to extend the installation in order to keep the artwork up as long as it's needed. 

RELATED: Black Lives Matter mural artist shares message behind his work

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