Multiple households along one street in the Casa Solana neighborhood in Santa Fe woke up Wednesday morning to find their political art and yard signs had been vandalized overnight.
Graffiti scrawled in red spray paint covered Black Lives Matter posters and murals outside at least five separate residences with the words "blue lives matter," "racist" and "bigot."
The vandalism is a clear sign that political tensions are running high in the week leading up to the election. But Fatima Van Hattum, who lives in one of the homes where signs were vandalized, says this is only the latest incident in a string of incidents that she and her neighbors have experienced in recent weeks and months.
"Every house with a Black Lives Matter sign on our street has been egged or had a windshield broken," says Van Hattum. "It's been pretty clear that these events did not happen by chance but definitely by design."
Van Hattum lives up the street from her sister, Samia Van Hattum, whose windshield was also shattered in July after she and several of her neighbors put up Black Lives Matter posters and murals created by a group of artists during local protests for racial justice and police reform.
A month later, Samia's house and several cars belonging to other neighbors with BLM yard signs were egged.
Then, a week ago, someone threw a piece of wood through Fatima's back windshield after she parked her car in the street in front of her Black Lives Matter sign.
Another neighbor, Sascha Anderson, tells SFR several people have been repeatedly pranked by someone ringing their doorbells at odd hours of the night, and that yard signs have been repeatedly stolen.
"The hate mongering is just getting worse the closer we get to the election," says Samia Van Hattum. She says the repeated vandalism has made her feel afraid for her safety, and ultimately for the safety of the Black community in Santa Fe.
"This is about Black lives…no one should be attacked for saying people's lives matter," she says.
For Fatima Van Hattum, there's a certain irony to the situation.
She is a member of the central committee of the Governor's Council for Racial Justice—the group Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham convened this summer after months of nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Her focus on racial justice issues as a PhD student at UNM, her involvement in the Muslim community and her work as a program director at NewMexicoWomen.org all led to her position, she says. This experience gives her perspective on the bigger picture surrounding the incidents in her neighborhood and the responsibility that society has to address them.
"We have a lot of work to do as a community and in all of our city institutions and our state institutions," she says.
Several residents say they have filed police reports about the incidents. Santa Fe Police spokesman Greg Gurule tells SFR late Wednesday he can't confirm how many homes were targeted, but noted one of the department captains is looking into whether any additional reports in the same time frame or area might be related.
"One thing that actually the city and the city police need to do is take these incidents seriously," Van Hattum says, adding that the city should collect data on when and where these incidents happen in order to identify patterns and develop a more effective response.
"The next thing is that we need to really engage in programing that diverts away from police," she continues. "First and foremost, that's what needs to be done to protect our communities. Because, you know, graffiti on my sign, or a broken windshield matters. But what matters more are people's lives. And what matters more is that we're seeing the levels of police brutality and deaths in police custody that we are."
Finally, she says, "We need community and healing around race. This is a wound and we have to heal, together."
Vandals also defaced several signs supporting Democratic candidates in the neighborhood, resident Danielle Voorhees tells SFR on Thursday. She noted the sentiments they wrote were "generally right-wing, not only targeting BLM supporters."