'Back the Blue' mural painted outside Tampa police headquarters in support of law enforcement amid BLM protests
The mural, which has not been approved by the city, features the black, white and blue colors of the pro-police 'thin blue line' flag
TAMPA, FLORIDA: Tampa hit the headlines this past week after a mural expressing support for the police force appeared in front of the Tampa Police Department headquarters without the approval of city officials.
Kristen Krutz, one of the organizers behind the project, was one of the mural's biggest advocates and helped it come to fruition with others from Back the Blue Florida, an online community with more than 5,000 members, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Krutz and 40 others painted the mural, which features the black, white, and blue colors of the pro-police 'thin blue line' flag, on Saturday, August 1, in the middle of East Madison Street by using orange cones and personal vehicles to block the road.
Asked about the motive behind it, Krutz explained that it was to show law enforcement personnel support as protests raged around the country about police brutality following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
"They’re being defunded and things that they need and require to do their job are not going to be provided anymore," she said. "Obviously, that would make anybody feel unappreciated, unwanted, and that’s the opposite of what we wanted them to see with the mural on the street."
Krutz said she mailed Tampa Mayor Jane Castor about getting approval for either a 'Blue Lives Matter' or 'Back the Blue' mural for several days starting July 16 and was even sent a guide with steps on painting an intersection in Tampa. She also set up a GoFundMe for the same that managed to collect over $1,000 in donations and a petition that was signed by more than a 1,000 residents.
While approval from the city was not forthcoming, Jeffrey Stull, an attorney who represents the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, sent a letter to Castor saying even the police union supported the project and asking her to direct city staff to move quickly to grant Krutz permission.
Eventually, they decided to go ahead without the required approval. Asked why, Krutz explained, "The reason why we decided to proceed without a permit is because Black Lives Matter has murals all over the city that say Black Lives Matter, and they were not permitted." She shared that she had filed a records request with the city for permits issued for BLM murals and was told that none had been issued.
She also said that she fully expects the murals to be vandalized even though BLM murals throughout the city had remained untouched, adding that those who did so would be going against their First Amendment rights.
"There’s no doubt if they go out there and deface this mural that somebody is going to deface theirs," she said. "That’s what irritates me. And it’s not going to be me. But it’s going to happen."
In a statement addressing the mural, Castor, who has previously served as Tampa police chief, said any tribute to law enforcement was welcome but that she was disappointed the group did not wait for permission.
"It’s unfortunate they didn’t see the permitting process through so that our community could participate in showing their appreciation for the brave men and women that service our residents every day," she said.