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Downtown Mural Depicting Death and Star of David Is Defaced: ‘No Place For Hate’

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ocal Jewish activists are calling for a gallery and event space in downtown L.A. to remove a seven-year-old mural on a brick wall for depicting a Death figure draped with the Star of David, sparking complaints of anti-Semitism.

Since popping up on social media on Feb. 25, the mural by local artist Vyal One has been defaced with paint and a spraypainted message reading: "No place for hate."

The L.A. chapter of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted about the mural on Feb. 26, calling on The Vortex event space to remove the piece that went up as part of a September 2011 group show “LA vs War.” The art exhibit dealt with anti-war and peace themes in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, and the mural had since remained on the facility's brick exterior.

Jeff Norman, manager at Vortex, told L.A. Taco this morning that there are no current plans to repaint the mural, or to remove it. He also said he has not been in contact with the artist. "No one said anything ever about the mural. I hadn't even noticed it myself," Norman said.

In the mural, a skeletal figure holds what appears to be an infant and a missile. The figure wears a blue cloak that suggests a merging of the American national flag with Stars of David. The "stripes" of the American flag transform into snakeheads.

These images, according to anti-defamation groups, invoke historical anti-Semitic tropes about the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged 'document' that purportedly lays out a plan for Jewish global domination. The Protocols, long debunked, remain a persistent feature of fringe conspiracy theory.

This mural at the Vortex in LA crosses a line. We call for its removal. 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.

— ADL Los Angeles (@LA_ADL) February 26, 2019

[dropcap size=big]V[/dropcap]yal, a longtime L.A. muralist and artist, denied the charge of anti-Semitism in a brief statement to L.A. Taco. “It’s not an anti-Semitic mural. The child in the piece represents the growing lower class in the U.S.,” Vyal wrote in a message.

The L.A. ADL said The Vortex should remove the mural immediately.

“The Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs and killing babies,” the group tweeted.

But the space, in a statement yesterday on Facebook, said it would not do and encouraged others to paint a rebutting mural next to it.

The Vortex stands for free expression. The artist whose mural includes the Star of David … did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight,” the venue said.

“We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

On Tuesday afternoon Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is part Jewish, chimed in on the controversy, saying the mural by Vyal had no place in the city. His office told the L.A. Times that Garcetti was “incredibly upset” about the piece and was looking for “recourse” to see it removed.

Norman, the manager at Vortex, said there could be more than one interpretation for the contents of the mural.

"My role is to help make [the space] available, not to assess the art," he said.

Erwin Recinos contributed to this report.

RELATED: 'Offensive' Ava Gardner Mural in Koreatown Public School Will Be Painted Over

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