Art or vandalism? A petition is circulating to save Givens Park mural

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hundreds of people have signed an online petition to prevent the City of Austin from painting over a mural that an Austin resident recently created at Givens Park.

The mural is of Andre Davis, Jr. who was shot and killed at the east Austin park on April 9. The artist also started adding other victims of violence. 

The petition reads: “The mural began as an act of honor, healing and respect for someone whose life was taken only a few feet away from the mural.”

According to Austin Police, multiple suspects robbed Davis and shot him. His killers have not been found yet. 

Michael Malik Williams said he started painting a picture of Davis because “everybody loved him.” 

“It was a surprise, and I tell you, it was a beautiful surprise,” said Davis’ sister Arbor Davis. 

She said the mural looks just like her brother. “I was so amazed. I had tears in my eyes.” 

The problem, however, is that the building Williams painted does not belong to him. It’s a restroom building at Givens Park, and according to the City of Austin, “Creating graffiti without permission from the property owner is a crime in Austin, and taggers are subject to various penalties under state law.”

Williams admitted, “I did not ask for permission,” but he went to explain, “I’m making a statement. There’s a lot of gang graffit that don’t mean nothing [at other places]. You can’t even read it, whereas this has significant meaning.” 

“That mural, that is Andre. Givens Park is Andre,” said Arbor. “This is where he hung everyday, played Dominos. This is where he came. This is Big Dre.” 

Williams said, “I want them to know he was a living legend in this town. He died too soon, violently. It was a senseless murder. We want justice.”

The Parks and Recreation Department told KXAN it understands the importance of this mural, so instead of removing it right away, they want to meet with the community to discuss the mural’s future. 

PARD is not scheduling any painting or graffiti abatement at this particular location.  PARD recognizes that this mural is an ad hoc memorial to a community member and further community discussion regarding the piece is warranted. PARD would like to work through an engagement process with that in mind.   

Arbor hopes the city will keep the mural.

“May not be today. May not be tomorrow, but I believe eventually someone will look at it and remember how Andre touched them, how Andre loved them, helped them out, or even just made them smile,” she said. “There’s going to be a day when they look at that mural, and they’re going to go forth to the Austin Police Department with information they have to help solve this case.”

Mural at Givens Park in Austi, TX (Photo: Yoojin Cho/KXAN)

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