A crowdfunder for defaced mural has already raised over £30,000
Messages of support have been piling up as a mural of Marcus Rashford was defaced in the early hours of Monday morning after England lost to Italy in the finals of Euro 2020.
The large, black-and-white portrait of the Manchester United and England player was reportedly daubed with racist graffiti. Greater Manchester Police were called to the scene in Withington on Monday morning and, according to The Guardian, a woman who did not wish to be named began sticking heart-shaped notes over the graffiti.
I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that
By Monday evening several more notes and decorated England flags had been added to the mural in solidarity with Rashford as well as his teammates Sancho and Saka. Messages included the words "hero" and "a true inspiration".
Supporters have been arriving at the mural throughout the day and a gathering is planned at 6pm (Tuesday 13 July) as an anti-racism protest. Now a crowdfunder by Withington Walls has raised enough money to repair the mural and install additional safety measures to protect street art in the area.
Withington Walls is the name of the project which has commissioned several pieces of street art throughout Withington village. The mural of Marcus Rashford is by Akse, a street artist known for photorealistic portraits of heroic figures and is considered a centrepiece of the project.
Chief Superintendent Paul Savill, of GMP's City of Manchester division, said: "This is disgraceful behaviour and will absolutely not be tolerated.
"Greater Manchester prides itself on being made up from a number of diverse communities and hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city.
"GMP takes crimes of this nature very seriously and an investigation has been launched. If anyone has any information that could help us to identify this offender please do not hesitate to speak to police."
Marcus Rashford was quick to respond to all the support he has received so far. He wrote in an Instagram post: "I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from. I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. I dreamt of days like this. The messages I’ve received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.
For all the kind messages, thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.
The post has received over 4 million likes so far.
The Withington Walls organisation said: "This iconic mural was created by the street artists Akse as part of the Withington Walls Project. We woke on Monday morning to discover that someone had taken a spray can to it. Your kind donations have now helped us repair the Marcus Rashford Mural. The England team may have lost, but they have done us proud on and off the pitch. This team has shown us the nation we can be. They have proved that diversity is our strength."
Comments from the public included: "Support Marcus and everything he stands for. Made me proud to be from Withington! No room for racism," and "United against discrimination of any kind. Rashford should be recognised as hero as should all of the England team."
🗣️ "It is a despicable, shameful act. And 99.9% of people will be utterly appalled by it and want the strongest action taken"
Andy has commented on the defacing of the Marcus Rashford mural in Withington and the racist abuse on social media of some England footballers.
Watch 👇 pic.twitter.com/CaDZHlGNCK
— Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) July 12, 2021
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, was quick to condemn any racist abuse on social media and the defacement of the mural, calling it a "despicable, shameful act". His comments were echoed by Joanne Roney, the Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, who said: "My first emotion is an intense pride for this team of young players who have taken on the hopes of the country with a dignity, humanity and professionalism rarely seen in a England team before... The response to last night's result shown by some so-called fans proves that we still have long way to go in weeding out racism in all its forms. We can and must do better.
"Well done to our England team - you deserve our pride."
Angela Rayner, MP for Ashton Under Lyne and Shadow First Secretary of State, called out Conservative Natalie Elphicke who criticised Marcus Rashford for campaigning to extend free school meals. She also called Marcus Rashford "The King of Manchester" and a "national treasure".
Meanwhile, Manchester United, Rashford's club, said "We're all behind you, Marcus Rashford. As a player. As a person. As an inspiration to our club and our supporters. As a representation of hope that there is plenty more good than bad in the world."
While Akse has now repainted a good portion of the mural, there is still a conversation to be had about how abuse is perpetuated on social media.
Steve Bartlett, Dragon's den star and co-founder of Manchester-based Social Chain, said: "The more we talk about players being radically abused on social media, the more they’ll be abused on social media. There is a small minority who get a thrill from outrage. If social media platforms made you verify your identify, 99.99% of this racial abuse would end overnight."
Unfortunately, this is not the first mural Akse has had to repair recently. A portrait of drag star Divina De Campo located in the gay village was also defaced with homophobic slurs just a fortnight earlier. The mural of George Floyd, also by Akse, in Stevenson Square was also defaced more than once.
Marcus Rashford will receive the first Ripple of Hope Next Generation Award from Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights in September for his work campaigning to extend free school meals.
Main image: Raf Mulla
Greater Manchester Police have appealed for information regarding the incident. Anyone with any information should contact police on 0161 856 4973 quoting incident number 453 of 12/7/2021 - or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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