The University of Connecticut Police Department arrested two individuals last week after they admitted to vandalizing and partially spray painting over the “Black Lives Matter” Spirit Rock mural on Hillside Road of the university’s main campus in Storrs, according to a press release.
Officer Thereza Ramirez responded to reports of graffiti at the iconic Spirit Rock around 9 p.m. on Nov. 23, and after searching the area, found Daniel Clark, 19, and Aidan Kuhn, 18, parked in the same car described leaving the North Garage Spirit Rock at the Gordon W. Tasker Admissions Building nearby.
In an email sent the next day, President Thomas Katsouleas told the UConn community that “several incidents of vandalism” occurred on university property.
“In addition to other disrespectful graffiti, ‘Danny Fast Hands’ was partially spray-painted over the ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural on the Spirit Rock,” Katsouleas said.
When met by police, Clark and Kuhn admitted to vandalizing the Spirit Rock, as well as the south-facing wall of the Tasker building where Officer Ramirez found similar graffiti. According to Katsouleas, the two individuals are not affiliated with the university.
Clark was also charged for interfering with an officer after providing Ramirez with a fake date of birth, and initially claiming that there was a third person involved with him and Kuhn. Clark later recanted that detail.
“Although the content of the vandalism did not target a specific individual or group, we are still troubled that this defacement marred a symbol of community and the current expression of support for members of our university,” Katsouleas said.
Katsouleas reminded the community that the three Spirit Rocks on the Storrs campus are important campus traditions. The university recently updated its rock painting policy in order to “to exemplify our promise to holding those who violate our university values and standards accountable.”
According to the policy , the tradition of painting “The Rock” by North Garage, the “Towers Rocks” behind the St. Thomas Aquinas Church and the “Buckley Shippee Rocks” by the freshman honors housing has “served as a vehicle for the free exchange of ideas and opinions while providing an outlet to express school spirit.”
Only enrolled students as part of a registered organization are able to participate in the tradition, provided that they follow certain guidelines — such as keeping the area around the rocks clean, and only using water-based latex paint.
“The painting of these rocks by non-UConn students, including but not limited to faculty, staff, administrators, donors, and visitors to campus, is not permitted and may be considered defacement of public property,” the policy reads.
Among the tradition’s guidelines, the policy stipulates the rock must also be painted in its entirety. Partially covering an existing painting is prohibited.