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Posted 08 Dec 2001   For week ended December 07, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 04Dec01

By Vickie Speek

LDS Family's 'Graffiti' Welcomes Missionary Home

TACOMA, WASHINGTON -- If you drive Interstate 5 near Tacoma, Washington, you know the Graffiti Rock. About 15 feet long, it always has something to say. Up until September, messages have focused on graduations, true loves, and sometimes featured an occasional gang sign or two. But like everything else in the United States after September 11, it changed, too.

On Sept. 14, Daphna (Bernie) Berniard and her friends applied for a permit and painted an American flag on the rock to honor Bernie's cousin and the cousin's husband who were killed during the terrorist attack at the Pentagon.

Passers-by joined the tribute by piling flowers around the rock in tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks. But within a few weeks, those opposed to the bombing in Afghanistan had painted an upside down flag and other vulgar symbols over the rock. Berniard arranged to meet with the head of the transportation department to see what could be done, but, by the time they made it to the rock, someone else had covered the insults and painted on a new flag.

As they wondered who had done it, Travis Shumate, 18, a Lincoln High School student came walking toward them with a camera. He and his family -- Matt, Devin, Gina and Dacia Shumate -- had painted over the protest and, more personally, painted the words, "Welcome Home, Corey." Corey is Travis' brother who was returning home from a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil.

As to what they thought of the protester who had painted vulgarities on the rock, Berniard and Shumate gave the same answer Americans have given for more than 200 years: they disagreed with what that person had to say, but believed he had the right to say it. Free speech is part of the foundation from which we raise that flag, they said. Now the 56th Street Rock in Tacoma is part of that foundation.


Rock becomes place to exercise First Amendment right
Tacoma WA News Tribune 11Nov01 P2
By Kathleen Merryman: The News Tribune


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