When Olivia Trimble woke up on November 11 and saw a Facebook post about a racist slur tagged on a local building in her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, she started looking for paint. Trimble–a sign painter–realized she could help.
“Without thinking, without designing anything beforehand, I just jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, grabbed some paint I had on hand, and ran up there and covered it up as quickly as possible,” she says.
The graffiti was on an abandoned building across the street from Fayetteville’s heavily-used public library. Trimble replaced the hate speech with “Love always wins,” posted it on Facebook, and offered to do the same thing for any similar graffiti in the area.
“If you see it, you call me, I’ll provide the material, and I’ll just get rid of it,” she says.
The idea resonated, and sign painters and artists across the country–from Philadelphia to Tulsa to Los Angeles–contacted Trimble to offer to do the same thing in their own neighborhoods. A new website, Repaint Hate, asks anyone who sees hate speech to report it so it can be replaced with a positive message.
In a GoFundMe campaign, Trimble is raising money for supplies. In Fayetteville, two public walls have been donated for positive murals. She wants to paint similar murals around the country.
Trimble hopes that the project also inspires others to act. “I just wanted people to feel empowered, when they see something happening, to take an action to positively affect the situation,” she says. “Whether it’s helping a person who feels uncomfortable somewhere, or covering up hate speech, or intervening when someone’s been bullied–whatever it may be.”
Since the election, reports of hate crimes have increased; the Southern Poverty Law Center received more than 200 complaints within a few days. To name just a few: Swastikas were painted on dorm doors at the New School in New York City; a church in Maryland was tagged with “Trump Nation Whites Only”; a bus stop in San Diego was tagged with “Heil Trump” and a swastika.
Of course, painting over graffiti is technically also graffiti. But Trimble and the other painters are willing to risk getting in trouble. In Fayetteville, officials reached out to ask her to document what she was covering, but didn’t ask her to stop.
For now, the message still stands on the Fayetteville building. “Love always wins.”