On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, and killed nearly 3,000 people. On September 24, 2001, only 13 days after the attacks, California artists R.J. Waldron, Eric Noda, and Thomas Hanley, as a tribute to those who lost their lives, painted a 35-foot American flag on a concrete wall near Interstate 680 in Sunol, about 40 miles southeast of San Francisco.
For nearly nine years, passing motorists could view the mural — that is, until the California Department of Transportation, known as “Caltrans,” destroyed the artwork by covering it over with paint. California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, found the cover-up disturbing, particularly the timing.
“It has come to my attention that Caltrans has recently removed a patriotic and meaningful flag mural that was painted on the side of Interstate 680 following the tragic events of 9/11,” said the Governor Schwarzenegger in a written statement. “To do so only days before we celebrate our independence and reflect on the freedoms we are lucky enough to enjoy in America is unconscionable.”
According to news reports, Caltrans considered the American flag mural to be “graffiti.”
“We don’t allow graffiti on state property,” Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk told the San Jose Mercury News. “No matter what kind of graffiti it is, we don’t show favoritism.” Mr. Amsk did not mention other cases that might confirm favoritism on the part of Caltrans.
The state agency has let stand for decades an anthology of anti-American, Communist and irredentist imagery on state property in San Diego. The site is Chicano Park, near the Coronado Bridge, and supporters call it a celebration of “Chicano history.” Some murals celebrate prominent Communists not of Mexican-American background.
These include Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, head of the longest standing Communist dictatorship in the Americas. Argentine Stalinist Che Guevara also shows up, as does Vietnamese Communist dictator Ho Chi Minh. Prominently depicted is “Aztlan,” a term adopted by leftist Chicano militants during the 1960s, to describe the American southwest as occupied Mexican territory. The legacy of this variant of 60s radicalism includes various Chicano Studies departments in California universities and groups such as the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. The Aztlan militants consider themselves part of a special raza, meaning race. Mi Raza Primero, “My Race First,” explains one of the Chicano Park murals.
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