LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Officials with the Los Angeles Unified school district are set to meet with community members Thursday over the district’s decision to remove a mural that some critics considered offensive.
Earlier this week, school officials decided to paint over the mural on the side of a gymnasium at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown because it includes imagery that protestors say evokes the Japanese battle flag and memories of Japanese atrocities against Koreans in World War II.
Korean groups say the mural is as offensive to them as a swastika would be to Jews or a burning cross to African Americans.
But muralist Beau Stanton says the painting actually depicts Hollywood legend Ava Gardner, which he says was intended as an homage to the Cocoanut Grove, which once stood nearby.
Stanton slammed the decision in an Instagram post, saying: “How do you feel about censoring art in an educational environment? Or misappropriation of universal symbols? LAUSD made a decision to destroy a 2 1/2 year old mural that I painted as a gift to the students and faculty at RFK Community Schools.”
At issue are the rays emanating from Gardner’s face, which critics say resemble those on the rising sun of the imperial Japanese battle flag used during World War II, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Japanese battle flag has 32 red and white bands, of uniform proportions, emanating from a central red sun. Stanton’s mural has 42 bands of varying sizes in blue and reddish orange, surrounding a much larger and strikingly different central image.
Those who objected to the rays on the 30-by-40-foot image say they are too reminiscent of the controversial flag.
“This flag symbolizes the Japanese military aggression which resulted in (some) of the most horrendous and gruesome crimes against humanity in human history,” the wrote in a Nov. 15 letter to the school system.
District officials estimate removing and replacing the mural would cost about $20,000.
The National Coalition Against Censorship, which represents a variety of groups including the American Association of School Administrators and the American Civil Liberties Union, said removing the mural “sets a dangerous precedent of submission to public pressure in assessing art and allowing students’ access to diverse viewpoints and ideas.”
Wilshire Community Coalition members along with Stanton are scheduled to meet with LAUSD officials at 3 p.m. to discuss the next steps following the decision.