Jouman Hamade blended the candy-red and white paint on her palm until it matched her blush-pink scarf. Then she pressed her hand next to other handprints covering up the hateful message slapped onto a Washington Avenue Bridge panel for the Muslim Student Association (MSA) last week.
Her action was part of Friday’s repainting event on the bridge, which connects the east and west banks of the University of Minnesota campus, to redesign the panel after the word “ISIS” was discovered spray-painted across it on Nov. 3. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called the vandalism a hate crime.
More than 30 students added their painted handprints to the colorful collection on the panel.
“It makes me smile and want to be on campus with everyone,” said Hamade, MSA’s coordinator.
The group had advertised its event as a way to show that “bigotry does not tear us apart, but rather brings us together.”
Students got creative, adding the colors of the U.S. flag and hearts inside their handprints. Nearby, a sign from another organization read: “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
Some passersby stopped to add their handprints and to offer support to the MSA, and a “Muslims are welcome here” sign appeared next to the panel.
It was a show of love and unity following Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the new U.S. president. Trump’s campaign statements about women, immigrants and Muslims have caused many to fear that such incidents as the panel’s vandalism may happen more often.
The panel was originally painted during the U’s annual Paint the Bridge event in October, when students decorate the pedestrian bridge with their club logos. Within hours of the event, a vandal had defaced a Minnesota College Republicans panel with “Build a wall,” a reference to Trump.
After the MSA panel was marred, it was quickly painted over with white paint, and Lutheran Campus Ministry posted a flier next to it offering its support to the MSA.
Ayan Gelle, 23, said she began avoiding the bridge after she found out about the vandalism and no longer walks home in the dark because she fears for her safety. Friday’s display of student support was encouraging, she said.
“We should not have hatred and division on campus,” she said.
A surveillance photo released by university police from Nov. 3 showed a person walking on the bridge around 3:45 a.m. wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a backpack. Police have asked the public to come forward with any information.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s office released a statement calling the graffiti an abhorrent action “that will not be tolerated on our campus.”
On Friday, students traced a new message in Arabic on the panel: “Peace be unto you.”
“It took one person to do the damage, but hundreds and thousands of people have reached out to share their love and support,” said MSA president Sidhra Musani.