City of Sydney to vote on speedy removal of hate-speech graffiti

City of Sydney to vote on speedy removal of hate-speech graffiti
Image: Labor Councillor on the City of Sydney Council Linda Scott (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

by GRACE JOHNSON

 

In response to numerous reports of hate-speech graffiti made by City of Sydney residents, Labor councillor Linda Scott will tonight move a motion pushing for the council to remove such graffiti within an hour of it being reported.

Currently, reporting hate graffiti for removal goes through the same process as reporting any other graffiti or posters. The person reporting must explain on the form why the hateful graffiti is offensive. They are then advised that Council will respond within two business days and offensive or hateful graffiti will be ‘prioritised’.

Councillor Scott said, “Waiting up to two days for hate-speech graffiti to be cleared is simply unacceptable.”

“I do not want the children of our community walking to and from school, seeing often explicit hate-speech on display for two days. Enough is enough.”

Council staff estimated there have been 25 incidents of hate-speech graffiti in the nine months to March 31, out of a total of 2771 (0.9 per cent).

For the 2022/2023 period, in the 12 months to June 30, there were 53 incidents of hateful graffiti out of 4371 (1.2 per cent).

A City of Sydney spokesperson told City Hub that for the 23/24 financial year to date, the council has removed more than 40,000 instances of graffiti (including paint, chalk, stickers, texta and commercial posters etc.), most of which is identified by the council’s cleaning contractor as part of their routine inspections.

“The City of Sydney has not identified a pattern for targeted places for the installation of hate graffiti,” said the spokesperson.

“We have an emergency procedure to remove hateful or offensive graffiti within 2 hours during business hours and within 4 hours outside business hours.”

“All other graffiti is removed within 24-48 hours.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said, “We give the highest priority to ensuring our City is safe and welcoming for all. The City’s graffiti maintenance program enables the City to remove particularly offensive graffiti within four hours of it being reported, and is generally much faster than that.”

“When the community reports graffiti for removal they are asked if it is offensive or hateful, and these reports are prioritised by staff. We will always assess this service and make sure we’re moving as quickly as possible.”

Support for the motion 

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin expressed support for calls to remove hateful graffiti within the hour.

“Graffiti may seem like a low-level offence or a mere nuisance but seeing anti-Jewish slogans often triggers generational trauma and affects one’s sense of belonging,” he said.

He also said the “daubing of public places”, particularly in areas with large Jewish communities, had become a “serious problem” since October 7.

“This is of course precisely the point of racist graffiti and councils throughout the country, particularly those with a high incidence of racist graffiti, need to implement effective reporting systems and be able to ensure removal as quickly as possible.”

Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh said he welcomes “any initiative that acts to end hate before it harms our community”.

“Hate becomes emboldened when we let it fester on our streets. It tells a small and noisy minority that their attempts to deface our city with hate are acceptable, when they’re not,” he said.

There’s been an increase in hate, he continued, including online and verbal attacks, vandalism and physical violence.

“Some of the most vicious attacks have taken place in the inner city and the inner west, where so many of us have built strong and visible communities. For some reason there are people with nothing better to do than target LGBTIQ+ people in the places where they are most visible and proud.”

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