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Pro-Palestinian artwork ruled not conforming to city law

Murals like this one of a Palestinian boy throwing a rock at an Israeli tank, on an east side adobe wall, have provoked controversy in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — After a wide-ranging public hearing that lasted nearly five hours, the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board affirmed a decision by the city of Santa Fe ordering a homeowner to remove pro-Palestinian murals from an adobe wall outside his home.

The artwork went up Jan. 5 on a wall surrounding a home owned by Guthrie Miller, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist. Although he didn’t authorize the artwork, Guthrie agreed to its installation.

Guthrie and his lawyer, Jeffrey Haas, appeared Tuesday at the H-Board meeting in Santa Fe to defend posters that were pasted to the wall outside his home.

The mural that must be removed attempted to make a connection between Native Americans and Palestinians that live in camps in Israel. “Speaking against Israel doesn’t make me anti-Semitic,” said Tanya Maxwell, a speaker at the H-board hearing.

The H-board hearing turned into a forum for airing the wrongs of Natives, who repeatedly shouted “You are on Indian Land.” But in the end, the four members of the H-board who were present took a narrow view of their mandate.

The vote was 3 to 1 that the posters placed on Miller’s wall did not conform to the city’s laws regarding adobe walls and materials, but acknowledged that the public’s concerns exceeded their mandate.

The H-board members who voted to get rid of the murals were Frank Katz, Jennifer Beidschied and Cervantes “Buddy” Roybal. Anthony Guida did not support a finding by the city’s land use department that the murals violated the law.

Members of the public attending the meeting questioned whether the four had a quorum to make their decision. But Katz told the group of about 100 that they did.

The murals that the H-board was voting on were not the only art on the public’s mind. Raymond Herrera spoke against the elimination of a mural on the side of a building on the corner of Guadalupe and Montezuma streets that is being transformed into the new Vladem Contemporary art museum.

The representatives from the city land office, who had previously denied Miller’s right to display murals on his wall, and the H-board members acknowledged that many of the public’s concerns were beyond the scope of the hearing. “Maybe this should go to the Supreme Court,” said one speaker.

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