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“Black Lives matter is a political organization, not a protected group”, Two men charged with hate crime after defacing Black Lives Matter mural painted on a street by performing burnouts on it

According to reports, 20-year-old and 19-year-old, both from California are set to be tried for hate crimes after reportedly defacing a Black Lives Matter mural painted on a street by performing burnouts on it. Both defendants reportedly admitted to defacing the mural, but denied that their actions were motivated by racial hatred. During Wednesday’s probable cause hearing, the County Prosecutor played a video from their social media in court, showing one of the defendants and other boys yelling ‘white power’ and giving Nazi salutes. 

On Wednesday, Judge Cogliati said that there was sufficient probable cause to send 20-year-old Brandon Bochat and 19-year-old Hagan Warner to trial on charges of felony vandalism and reckless driving under the enhancement of a hate crime.

According to the court documents, both defendants were reportedly drunk on July 23, when the incident occurred. The 19-year-old and 20-year-old reportedly drove over the large BLM mural running down Center Street, leaving black tire marks all over the yellows letters, court records say.

Both defendants reportedly admitted to defacing the mural. But, they denied that their actions were motivated by racial hatred, according to reports.

During Wednesday’s probable cause hearing, both defendants reportedly said their anger was directed at the BLM movement, not at black people, according to reports. The defendants also said that they thought the yellow paint on the road was for the crosswalk.   

Attorneys representing the defendants argued that Black Lives Matter is a political organization, not a protected group. Warner’s attorney also said that his client’s actions that day were fueled by alcohol and stupidity, not racism.

But, County Prosecutor Mahan countered by playing a video from Bochat’s social media in court, showing Warner and other boys yelling white power and giving Nazi salutes. Another video showed Bochat driving on a highway, pointing a real or fake gun at a car in front of him and making racial remarks. 

Prosecutor Mahan cited a statement from Bochat’s former classmate, who told authorities that she had heard him repeatedly use racial slurs while the two attended high school together. 

The estimated costs to repair the ruined mural are approximately $115,000, but could be even higher. The mural is set to be repainted yearly as an ongoing discussion about systemic racial disparities in the U.S., according to reports.