DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A mural in downtown Los Angeles has sparked controversy over its symbolism, particularly the Star of David.
The painting depicts the Grim Reaper cloaked in a blue mantle with several Stars of David on it. The skeletal figure is holding a missile and what appears to be the body of a dead infant.
Mayor Eric Garcetti's office has denounced the portrait, calling it a "shameful act of anti-Semitism."
The mural was painted on an exterior wall of The Vortex, a multi-use community center.
"For a venue that purports to welcome the community, the Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs, and killing babies," the Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles said in a statement.
The Vortex responded with a statement of its own.
"The artist whose mural includes the Star of David did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message," the venue said. "We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it."
The mural was recently vandalized. Surveillance video shows a man with a mask dressed in black dousing the mural with white paint and writing the message, "there's no place for hate."
The community art space said they were shocked by the act.
"The Vortex is always a home for people to come and express their anger, their frustration or their love of peace and togetherness," Jeff Parker Whitley said.
He added that the message was anti-war. Whitley's father was a vet.
"The idea of anti-war was very close to my heart," he said. "I don't see a baby. I see a baby-sized doll and that's like a puppeteer."
Vortex is located in an industrial area off East Olympic Boulevard. The mural has been there for at least six years. It didn't start to get attention until last weekend, when a big art show happened at the Vortex and someone saw something wrong with the painting.
The creator is a graffiti artist named Vyalone. He said he's no expert on the Middle East and that the images were about victims of war.
But there is no plan to restore the mural. The Vortex and Vyalone said the present image is more powerful than the first.
Anti-Defamation League, Mayor Garcetti denounce mural in downtown Los Angeles as anti-Semitic
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