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George Floyd mural defaced in Stoneham; artist vows to repaint

A runner turned to look at a mural depicting George Floyd which has been defaced on the Tri-Community Greenway on the Woburn-Stoneham line.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

After George Floyd died on May 25, Esben Rey couldn’t sleep.

The 42-year-old tattoo artist from Jamaica Plain was appalled by the news that a white Minneapolis police officer had pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he was on the ground, handcuffed, pleading for his life, saying “Please, please, please I can’t breathe.”

So Rey decided to decide to put his angst into a piece of noncommissioned street art. He went down to the Tri-Community Greenway on the Woburn-Stoneham Line and painted a mural as a tribute to George Floyd.

“It’s an old paint spot, it was a perfect day,” said Rey. “I wasn’t chased off.”


The mural is a portrait of Floyd’s face along with the words “Justice 4 Big Floyd.”

Rey was happy with how the mural turned out, until he got some bad news on Monday morning.

Rey was in Rochester, N.Y., and about to drive down to Tampa, Fla., when he got a call from a friend.

“He said, ‘Yo bro, somebody dissed your piece,’ and he sent me a photo,” said Rey.

Someone had spray painted all over Floyd’s face.

Rey, who works as a tattoo artist at Fat Ram’s Pumpkin Tattoo in Jamaica Plain, doesn’t know who did it, but he suspects it was most likely a group of young kids causing mischief.

“We have a certain code of ethics between graffiti writers,” he said. “I don’t think it was another graffiti writer.”

Rey plans to undo the damage by repainting the mural in the near future.

“This time I’m going to paint it again, and I’m going to paint it bigger," he said.

This is what the mural of George Floyd looked like before it was defaced.Esben Rey

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.