Neighbors Come Together to Paint Over Racial Slurs at Vandalized Home Before Family Sees Them

Community covers hateful messages before family sees them.

ByABC News
August 22, 2016, 2:09 PM

— -- A community in Washington state came together to scrub messages of hate from a black neighbor's property after vandals spray-painted racial slurs on his home and vehicle while he and his family were on vacation.

Friends and neighbors in the town of Tenino spent their Saturday washing the hateful messages clean before Marvin Phillips and his family saw them.

Phillips told ABC News today that he and his family were away on a weekend camping trip when he got a call from the police department notifying him that his property had been vandalized.

He called his friend Misty Dell, who told her friend Heidi Russell, who posted about it on Facebook. The next day, Saturday, about 50 community members gathered to clean the graffiti before the Phillips family saw them.

The vandals "spray-painted on it 'KKK' and the N-word," said Dell, a family friend whose son plays football with Phillips' son, "on their home and on their truck."

"Marvin had called me and told me what had happened, so I didn't know what to do," she said. "So I called our head coach's wife, and she was able to manpower it. We all got together Saturday morning."

"We tried using several different things to get the writing off, and it wasn't working, so we all pitched in and got paint and repainted the house," Dell said, "And his truck, we all scrubbed it, and it came off," adding that they replaced a few parts where the graffiti could not be removed.

Phillips said he was amazed by how many people came to help "not only from our town but from the two adjacent towns."

He said that when he learned his house and truck had been vandalized, "I was absolutely offended and upset and wondering why."

"I'm 58 years old, so this isn't the first time I've seen or heard something like this," he said. But he said he was concerned for his five children, who range in age from 6 months old to 10 years old.

"I didn't want to have to explain to my kids what the N-word was or what the KKK was all about right now. I didn't want my kids to look at their friends differently," he said. "My daughter is a cheerleader and Girl Scout, and I didn't want her to look at her peers differently."

Phillips, a military veteran, said his family has been living in Tenino for a little over a year.

"We're the only colored people in our neighborhood," he said, adding that until this point, he had never experienced any animosity from the community.

Phillips said he was very thankful to his neighbors for their kindness. "They did a fantastic job. They poured out their spirit and their love. It was unreal. I was overwhelmed," he said.

"I don't even know who to thank," he said, adding that many community members helped out in some way. "There is a local restaurant here that brought us dinner that night. There is an organization that came over and gave us 100 bucks to take the kids to this wet and wild place because we had to end our vacation."

Phillips said he feels no anger toward the people that did this to his home. "Actually, I'm praying for them," he said.

"I thank God for the people that came out and helped me. I wish I knew them all," he said. "I wish I could throw a barbecue or something out front to show my love and thanks for all the people that came out."

Don Moody, the police chief for Tenino, told ABC News today that one of his officers responded to an incident and "found a bunch of derogatory racial slurs spray-painted on a home and vehicle" while the homeowner was out of town.

"He is a very well-liked gentleman in the community," Moody added, saying that community members took it on themselves to clean off the hateful messages.

He said that the officer who responded to the incident went back on Saturday to help pitch in with the cleaning and painting. Moody said that police have yet to identify any suspects but that the act is uncommon in the community.

"It is something that no one in this community accepts, and they didn't want it to be there, and they felt it was important to get it cleaned up for this gentleman before he got back," he said.