Smiley face defaces MLK image

Someone drew a smiley face over the image of Martin Luther King Jr. on the Fort Wayne bridge bearing his name.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) An image of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the bridge bearing his name near downtown Fort Wayne has been cleaned up after someone defaced it.

NewsChannel 15 received a photo of a smiley face covering King’s image that appears on a plaque on the bridge via Report!t. It’s not certain how long it had been that way. People were walking and riding their bikes by the defaced plaque Monday afternoon. Renee Mickens is from Atlanta and moved to Fort Wayne a year ago. She found the act of vandalism disrespectful and distasteful.

“They don’t understand the importance of this whole thing they built here,” Mickens said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Roger Goodland worked for the Greenway Consortium for 15 years. He said officials were hesitant to put up signage around the walkways in fear it would be vandalized. He said there hasn’t been much graffiti on those signs, but having this type vandalism on the city’s iconic bridge is a shame.

“It’s become one of the city’s treasures and to see someone have such disregard for it, it’s just disappointing,” he said.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge
Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge

The Downtown Improvement District was contacted about the vandalism and Bill Brown, president of the organization, stopped by the bridge to clean up the plaque.

“That’s taken down right away,” said Brown. “You’re going to have some of these things happen, but it’s just a simple four letter word, care.”

There are no surveillance cameras on the bridge, so authorities don’t have an easy means to try and figure out who is responsible.

Jonathan Ray, president and CEO of the Fort Wayne Urban League, said this doesn’t reflect how the community feels about Dr. King.

“I believe that the people of Fort Wayne believe in the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for,” Ray said.

To report vandalism, you can contact the Downtown Improvement District at (260) 420-3266 or the Anti-Graffiti Network at (260) 449-7511. If you catch someone in the act, city leaders said you can call 311 or police.

A person who’s arrested and charged could face a criminal mischief charge, a Class A misdemeanor. That’s punishable to up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Brown said it would have cost no more than $200 to have the paint removed.

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