Homophobic slurs painted over LGBTQ+ colors on a popular Faraday Street bridge were covered by city crews Friday, days after a video of a woman berating two teens for celebrating Pride Month with their art exploded on social media and incited local action.
The slurs included “aids fs” and “40% pedophile” and appeared sometime between 11 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday, according to a person monitoring the bridge who texted The Daily Times.
Alcoa Police Chief David Carswell said Friday he received notification about 9 a.m. Friday about the slurs and that soon after city crews painted them over with generic gray paint.
“To me it’s vulgar. It’s derogatory. It’s disgusting,” Carswell said by phone. He told The Daily Times when the incident first came to light Tuesday that it was not illegal to paint the bridge, but Alcoa Police would not allow “vulgar” art on it.
He added law enforcement would continue to allow painting on the bridge but put up a sign asking them not to paint on the sidewalk.
Carswell said he hoped the situation would “fizzle out” soon.
However, confusion arose when Knoxville TV news outlet WBIR-TV Channel 10 erroneously reported Friday evening an item titled online, “Alcoa police urge people stop painting on bridge.”
The station later changed the online headline to “Alcoa police ask people not to paint sidewalks or streets near bridge known for community art after slurs found covering Pride art.”
The WBIR article did not quote any APD personnel or statements.
Alcoa Police quickly posted a statement on social media at 9:22 p.m., after the first WBIR article appeared, emphasizing it was still legal to paint the bridge.
“Despite what is being reported by news media, the Alcoa Police Department is not discouraging anyone from painting on the bridge in Springbrook Park,” the statement said, adding that the sign Carswell discussed already was posted.
“The City of Alcoa and the Alcoa Police Department will not tolerate anyone painting inappropriate, vulgar, or obscene comments or images,” the APD statement said. “Additionally, threats or comments that attack or harass community members or organizations will not be tolerated.”
Some activists who painted the bridge with LGBTQ+ symbols said Wednesday they wanted to have those symbols up for the remainder of Pride Month, June, if possible.
As emphasized by the APD statement Friday, painting on the street, sidewalks and other nearby utilities is now discouraged.
On Friday evening, a utility pole near the bridge was painted with rainbow colors. The streets and sidewalks were covered with names, phrases and political slogans.
Someone painted “TRUMP 2024” on the street: The phrase later had an “X” through it.
Also on Friday, the Pride flag had returned, but only to the south side of the right-lane bridge wall.
Emily Brown, who helped paint the bridge and was keeping track of it, texted early Friday that supporters of the girls berated Tuesday wanted the slurs covered up quickly.
“They don’t want the kids to see it,” she texted.
The slurs were painted days after an incident when a woman who indicated she lived near the bridge berated two teenage girls Tuesday night when they were painting LGBTQ+ flags on the popular bridge at the intersection of Vose Road and Faraday and Darwin streets.
Video of the incident spread quickly on social media and elsewhere as has support for the girls, who are in a relationship and said they were devastated by the confrontation.
By Saturday, two more texts — the Bible verse references “Romans 12:10” and “John 13:14” — were painted on the bridge.
In the New American Standard Bible, Romans 12:10 reads, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”
In the NASB, John 13:14 reads, “So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”