Denver police probe racist scribbles in Stapleton park, neighbors respond with positive sidewalk art

The chalk vandalism occurred before property owners decided to keep the neighborhood’s name, which references a former Denver mayor and KKK member.
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Positive messages drawn in chalk near an area where racist graffiti was found at Prairie Meadows Park in Stapleton last week. (Courtesy Melissa West)

Denver police this week confirmed they are investigating racist graffiti found last week at Prairie Meadows Park in Stapleton.

The department said the Bias Motivated Unit is investigating racial slurs written on a bridge in the park and reported on Aug. 16. A report on the incident is not available because it's an open investigation.

Photos provided to Denverite by Stapleton resident Marissa Mwendwa conveyed hatred toward African Americans in the form of the N-word, "KKK" and another profane word scrawled in chalk underneath and around a bridge at the park. Mwendwa cleaned up the vandalism with a rag and spray cleaner after a friend posted about it on Facebook on Aug. 15.

"It's definitely not something you clean out of your mind or your heart," Mwendwa said.

Mwendwa provided a statement to police last week. She called the messages "heartbreaking" and said she hopes the incident is an outlier.

"I am a white, hetero, cisgender, upper-class lady. I don't have to experience a lot of other things our brown and LGBTQIA neighbors do," Mwendwa said, referring to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual.

People have responded to the incident by writing positive messages in chalk in the same area.

Stapleton is named after Stapleton International Airport, which was named after former Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who was a member of the KKK. The controversy behind Stapleton's history with the hate group has lead to efforts to remove the name. It led to a neighborhood-wide vote from property owners, with results on Monday showing most of the people who voted support retaining the name.

Earlier this month, racist graffiti was found near the Joe Shoemaker School in the Hampden neighborhood.

Police are encouraging anyone with information related to this incident to call crime stoppers at 720-913-7867.

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