The city of Salem, Oregon, ordered the removal of a mural depicting a patriotic display of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during WWII from a local private company. Despite the possibility of a fine, the patriotic business owner has resisted, and the matter has received national attention this week.
According to The National Pulse, City Mayor Chuck Bennett and the City of Salem used a single anonymous complaint about the artwork to justify ordering its removal in November 2021. The artwork is on the side of Valley Roofing, a privately held company.
The business owner, Jon Taylor, commissioned the painting from a local artist to celebrate his many friends and family members who have served in the United States military, as well as all Americans who have served and are currently serving.
The City of Salem claimed in an email acquired by American Military News that publications "misrepresented" the city's role in the issue and "spread false allegations of intent behind these actions.
Since November 2021, local personnel have been "working directly with the property owner," according to the city, and elected officials such as Mayor Bennett and City Counselors "do not administer or enforce City Code."
“We actively work with property owners and businesses to navigate Salem’s rules and regulations, encompassed in the Salem Revised Code pertaining to (Chapter 900) or (2) public art (Chapter 15). In short, sign code is concerned with the size, location, and construction of signage, not what the sign says or how it is portrayed,” the city said in the email. “The public mural code addresses art and follows a public process, through the Salem Public Art Commission with a public hearing, as the work is considered for inclusion in the City’s Public Art Collection.”
“This is a beautiful way to honor and recognize this significant moment in our history, and the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families. We appreciate the quality of the work and its meaning for many in our community. The City’s rules for public art murals and signs do not consider the content or the craftsmanship of public art or signage,” the city wrote.
The city stated that no fines were enforced and that city employees are "in continuing dialogue with the property owner." However, according to The Pulse, if the mural is not removed, Taylor will be fined more than $200.
“The City of Salem’s laws, encompassed in the Salem Revised Code, represent the values of our community,” the city continued. “We remain committed to fair and equal treatment for all individuals and businesses making Salem a great place to live and work.”
In the meantime, a petition to save the mural has received over 9,300 signatures. According to the petition, the City of Salem is "harassing local businesses" like Taylor's, which are only trying to "change our community for the better."
“[He] does a lot for this community both personally and through his business. He is a true credit to our fine city and a shining example of the sort of person we should all want as a neighbor and community leader,” local veterans said of Taylor.
Mario Jr. DeLeon, the artist behind the picture, stated, "Even when we help fight the wars, they don't want us to talk about our contribution."