AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Early Friday morning, the offices of Jim Hightower on San Marcos Street were vandalized. Surveillance video caught three hooded suspects red handed.
The suspects threw rocks at two windows and spray-painted slogans and explicits across the building's front wall. The vandalism appears to be directed not at Hightower but instead leaders with the Austin Creative Alliance say they believe the vandalism is a direct retaliation to a new gallery which they debuted on Thursday.
The artwork created by Jean Pierre Verdijo features a theme of gentrification within Austin city limits. "I invited Defend our Hoodz to attend the exhibit because I was hoping that they would come and bring their voice and their outlook to the conversation," said Verdijo.
He says the conversation took a turn.
Verdijo says they have reason to suspect that the people who vandalized the building were somehow connected to Defend our Hoodz. "The messages that were written on the building are almost the same as the messages that were left on the fliers left on the floor. No one can say who did what," said Verdijo.
Defend Our Hoodz recounted its protest on their Facebook page, denounced Verdijo and the Austin Creative Alliance as "Gentrifier collaborators," and wrote, "Jean-Pierre invited us to have a 'conversation' about gentrification at his exhibit, but we came to shut it down instead."
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Defend our Hoodz and this is what they had to say:
"The Austin Creative Alliance makes unfounded claims about our organization because they stand to benefit from the displacement of thousands of working class tenants."
Verdijo hopes that the conversation about gentrification can one day be had and resolved. "All and all the situation in Austin around gentrification is a mess there is no easy way to work around it and the behaviors are implicated of how messy it is," said Verdijo.