A group of people hiked up Mount Tom on Friday to clean up racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti.
The hike up to the mountain’s rock face is short but breathlessly steep. The wind was fierce Friday. That didn’t stop 39-year-old high school teacher Damien Johnson. He painted solvent on a rock to get rid of graffiti.
“‘[Expletive] BLM’ — Black Lives Matter, ‘Trump 2016,’ ‘God hates fags,'” Johnson reads aloud. “It’s everywhere.”
Johnson lives at the bottom of the mountain in Holyoke. He was part of an earlier effort here, about a month ago, that power-washed another batch of graffiti, which wasn’t hateful.
These new words were painted before the election. This week news spread about it on Facebook, drawing a steady stream of people to get rid of it.
“To me, if you don’t stand up and vocalize and fight back against racism — I feel like I have a responsibility to do that,” said Johnson. “It breaks my heart.”
“I’m just taking another wack at Hitler,” said Tom Peake of Easthampton. “They painted Hitler on this rock. And we’ve been trying to get it off. You can’t even read it at this point.”
Peake was scrubbing away the words with a wire brush.
“I love this mountain. I wake up every morning and look at it,” said Peake. “I thought I’d come up and help out.”
Forty-one-year-old Ed Mooers put some muscle into erasing the letters “KKK.”
“This is my backyard,” said Mooers, who tries to hike up here as much as possible. “To know that someone who is a neighbor of mine hates another neighbor of mine — I can’t stand for it. It really makes me angry.”
Mooers said if the graffiti returns, so will he.