A man was arrested on Santa Monica Boulevard this morning and charged with vandalism for defacing two murals on the city’s sidewalks promoting the L.A. LGBT Center’s PrEP awareness campaign.
Francis O’Brien, a Los Angeles resident in his late 60s, was charged with felony vandalism and released after posting bail.
The murals, one at 8857 Santa Monica Blvd. near Larrabee, the location of Micky’s, and the other at 8801 Santa Monica near Palm, the location of Yogurt Stop, contain a slogan – “F*ck W/Out Fear” — that the Center describes as raw and real and sex-positive. It is meant to promote use of PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a regimen that can lower one’s risk of HIV infection by 99%. PrEP requires taking Truvada, a blue pill, once daily. The Center and other gay-oriented organizations have worked to promote PrEP to both those who are at risk of HIV infection and to doctors who might prescribe it.
O’Brien sprayed out the “F*ck” word with red paint on both sidewalk murals. Deputy Frank Diana of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said O’Brien told Sheriff’s deputies that the word offended him.
“I applaud the Sheriff’s Department for catching the person doing this,” said Jim Key, the Center’s chief marketing officer. “This is a public health campaign to help those most at risk of HIV to learn that there’s a pill to prevent. It’s outrageous that someone would do this.”
The PrEP murals have been put at five locations on Santa Monica Boulevard. One in front of Rage bar on Santa Monica west of San Vicente already had been defaced with red paint. Someone also already had put tape over the work “F*ck” in front of Yogurt Stop, one of whose owners has objected to the word.
“We’ve had a lot of customers come in upset,” said Shoshana Joseph of Yogurt Stop. “They are ashamed and embarrassed by the words. Parents are appalled. Tourists are appalled.”