Navarre moms Allie Summerlin and Lynette Luster headed to the Holley-Navarre park with their kids as they normally do most Mondays during the pandemic.
But when they arrived, they noticed the playground was covered in hate speech and swastikas. Down the slide in yellow spray paint read the words “f--- you.” Summerlin said much of the writing was racially charged.
“We started looking at it and just said ‘Oh my God,’” said Summerlin. “It’s totally devasting, and the fact that it was done at a kid’s play place doesn’t make sense to me. There was a lot of hate speech, n-word everything.”
Luster immediately called the Santa Rosa County Parks department and not too much longer, a maintenance crew arrived to cut the grass. When they saw the graffiti, they immediately removed as much as they could before running out of cleaner.
Brandi Whitehurst, public information officer for Santa Rosa County, said there was an issue with graffiti in the past and the perpetrator had been apprehended. Profanity is often a common theme, she added. In this case, a report has been made with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s not something we have a huge problem with,” said Whitehurst. “We maintain 67 parks so we do see it occasionally.”
Both Luster and Summerlin live within five minutes of the park. They both said they’ve never seen it vandalized in such a way. This comes after months of protests against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd and the five-hour Pensacola City Council meeting in which the council heard from 150 people before voting to remove the monument and rename the square. Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh has issued a temporary halt on the removal.
“I’m still a little shocked,” Luster said. “It had to be teenagers.”
“Let’s hope it wasn’t grown men,” added Summerlin.
Both moms said they were grateful their young children can’t read yet as they played on the equipment with the rubbed-out graffiti.
If anything, Summerlin said the sight was a reminder of the conversations that need to happen at home about race.
“Parents need to talk to their kids and tell them that this is not OK,” she said. “Make sure you’re not part of the problem.”