Remove the RFK Mural’s Use of the Rising Sun Flag of Japanese Imperialism

As a Pilipinx-American youth organization, Kabataang maka-Bayan or KmB / Pro-People Youth stands in solidarity with the Wilshire Community Coalition in their call to immediately remove the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) mural due to its prominent use of the Rising Sun Flag.

During WWII in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Rising Sun Flag symbolized Japanese Imperialism and is equivalent to the Swastika of German Nazism. Under the reign of this flag, over 20 million innocent people were killed in inhumane crimes. Motivated by racism, these massive killings were facilitated by the development of chemical weapons as a result of military aggression at the cost of comfort women and forced laborers. This same imperialism led to the invasion and occupation of the Philippines from 1942-1945, costing the lives of over one million Filipinos. Consequently, 250,000 Filipinos enlisted to fight against Japanese occupation and 10,000 Filipino veterans today still advocate for full recognition of their service.

By ignoring these struggles in history, this mural is not an example of free speech. This abhorrent visualization of the Rising Sun Flag of Japanese Imperialism is an insensitive expression of hate that disregards the historical context and trauma that results from imperialist wars of aggression. This work is threatening to many survivors, descendants, and community stakeholders who stand in opposition of Japanese Imperialism and the consequences of violating the people’s right towards self-determination.

Additionally, the mural was intended to be a tribute to Hollywood’s golden era by featuring actress Ava Gardner and the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub. This former celebrity haunt was a “No Black” club, and if it existed today, a majority of Koreatown’s residents would not have been allowed entry. While this is history that should not be forgotten, it is also a part of history we do not want to celebrate and immortalize in the form of such public art. Considering that this mural holds no educational value for youth, and instead is displayed for aesthetics, we demand accountability for future commissions to abide by the Mural Ordinance of the City of Los Angeles and address its effects on marginalized communities.

Initially, only the rays were proposed to be removed and partially preserve the mural. However, artist Beau Stanton has requested that the mural be removed entirely if changes are made.

With regard to the lack of cultural sensitivity and educational impact for children, youth, and families, KmB / Pro-People Youth endorses the efforts of the Wilshire Community Coalition and the residents of Koreatown, Los Angeles. As youth that recognize the trauma of imperialism and with our own members as residents of this neighborhood, we demand LAUSD to reconsider and remove the RFK mural immediately.

Please sign and share this petition with allies, supporters, friends, and families to reach 1500 signatures: https://www.change.org/p/roberto-a-martinez-remove-hate-symbol-on-rfk-mural

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