The city of Salem, Oregon ordered a local private business to remove a mural featuring a patriotic display of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during WWII. The business owner has refused, despite facing the threat of a fine, and the dispute garnered media attention this week.
City Mayor Chuck Bennett and the City of Salem cited a single, anonymous complaint about the mural to justify ordering its removal in November 2021, according to The National Pulse. The mural decorates the side of Valley Roofing, a privately owned business.
Jon Taylor, the business owner, commissioned the painting from a local artist to honor his many friends and family who have served in the United States military, as well as all Americans who have and are currently serving.
In an email obtained by American Military News, the City of Salem claimed reports have “misrepresented” the city’s role in the situation and “spread false allegations of intent behind these actions.”
The city said municipal staff have been “working directly with the property owner” since November 2021, adding that elected officials like Mayor Bennett and City Counselors “do not administer or enforce City Code.”
“We actively work with property owners and businesses to navigate Salem’s rules and regulations, encompassed in the Salem Revised Code pertaining to (Chapter 900) or (2) public art (Chapter 15). In short, sign code is concerned with the size, location, and construction of signage, not what the sign says or how it is portrayed,” the city said in the email. “The public mural code addresses art and follows a public process, through the Salem Public Art Commission with a public hearing, as the work is considered for inclusion in the City’s Public Art Collection.”
“This is a beautiful way to honor and recognize this significant moment in our history, and the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families. We appreciate the quality of the work and its meaning for many in our community. The City’s rules for public art murals and signs do not consider the content or the craftsmanship of public art or signage,” the city wrote.
The city noted that no fines have been imposed and city staff are “in continuing dialogue with the property owner.” The Pulse reported that if the mural is not removed, however, Taylor will initially be fined over $200.
“The City of Salem’s laws, encompassed in the Salem Revised Code, represent the values of our community,” the city continued. “We remain committed to fair and equal treatment for all individuals and businesses making Salem a great place to live and work.”
Meanwhile, a petition to save the mural has already garnered over 9,300 signatures. The petition claims the City of Salem is “harassing local businesses” like Taylor’s, who simply want to “change our community for the better.”
“[He] does a lot for this community both personally and through his business. He is a true credit to our fine city and a shining example of the sort of person we should all want as a neighbor and community leader,” local veterans said of Taylor.
The artist behind the painting, Mario Jr. DeLeon, said, “Even when we help fights the wars, they don’t want us to be talking about our contribution.”