Elvis Presley’s iconic Graceland estate in Memphis was defaced by vandals overnight with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Defund the Police’ graffiti.
The protest slogans were painted in thick black and orange lettering on the stone wall that surrounds the King’s mansion along Elvis Presley Boulevard, the Commercial Appeal first reported.
Graceland, where Elvis lived for 20 years before his death in August 1977, also had its wall marred by other popular activist phrases such as ‘Abolish ICE’, ‘Defund MPD’, and ‘F*** Trump’.
The spray-painted lettering covered thousands of tributes to Elvis written by fans who have visited the King’s home since it officially became a museum in 1982.
The vandalism was discovered by museum workers early Tuesday morning.
Fans of Elvis were outraged to see the landmark defaced.
‘We were just driving by this morning and we looked over,’ Alice Self told WMC5. ‘We just couldn’t believe it. We were just stunned by it.’
Bill Stanley, Elvis’ stepbrother, also described how appalled he was that someone would deface the King’s home.
‘This is totally uncalled for,’ said Stanley. ‘One of the saddest days of my life. I mean, besides the day that Elvis passed away, this right here is right up next to it.’
Democratic State Rep. Antonio Parkinson offered a different take on the graffiti, in opposition to the collective voice of outrage, writing: ‘What’s the real issue here? Every visitor that has come to Graceland has written on that wall and there were no complaints. So, really, it’s WHAT was written, not the fact that it was written.’
A spokesperson for Graceland declined to comment on the vandalism. Worker’s wielding power-washers were seen removing the graffiti from the wall by mid-morning Tuesday.
But Elvis’ home wasn’t the only iconic landmark vandalized in the city from late Monday, to the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Vandals also struck the Levitt Shell concert venue in Overton Park, spray-painting scrawled obscenities, including ‘F*** TRUMP” and ‘F*** STRICKLAND,’ a reference to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, in addition to ‘EAT THE RICH’ and other phrases.
The open-air amphitheater was where Elvis gave his first paid concert on July 30, 1954.
A spokesperson for the Levitt Shell said this is the sixth time this year they’ve been vandalized.
The venue has already been significantly impacted financially from the on-going coronavirus pandemic, and is currently battling an $800,000 budget shortfall.
Due to the building being a historic venue, the cost of repainting the Levitt Shell could be around $150,000, Memphis police said.
‘That’s why this is such a devastating situation seeing it this morning,’ said Natalie Wilson, Levitt Shell executive director. ‘It’s getting worse.’
Wilson says while she doesn’t condone the graffiti, she hopes the historic space can be a place where the community can heal.
‘Defacing our stage is not appropriate; however, we acknowledge their pain and we want to say to our community “it’s time the conversations are deeper, they’re more productive and that change happens with good communication”,’ Wilson said.
Also tagged overnight by vandals was the large ‘I [Heart] Memphis’ mural on Cooper Avenue at York, where the same graffiti themes of ‘BLM’, ‘EAT THE RICH’, and ‘DEFUND POLICE’ were scrawled all over.
The instances of vandalism were discovered on 901 Day, an unofficial celebration of Memphis culture that takes place on September 1 each year.
Memphis police are investigating the vandalism. Online, meanwhile, debate over the identity of the vandals was held across social media, with some blaming leftist ‘thugs’ for the damage and others claiming that ‘infiltrators’ seeking to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement were responsible.
Elvis Presley lived at Graceland for two decades before his death on August 16, 1977, at age 42.
The estate — located along Highway 51 South, known as Elvis Presley Boulevard — was opened to the public in 1982 and attracts around 600,000 visitors annually.