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Neighbors unite to remove racist graffiti before family gets home

Neighbors of Marvin Phillips in Tenino, Wash., banded together to clean up and paint over racist graffiti that was spray-painted on their home and truck while the family was away.
Neighbors of Marvin Phillips in Tenino, Wash., banded together to clean up and paint over racist graffiti that was spray-painted on their home and truck while the family was away. KOMO

When Heidi Russell saw what vandals had spray-painted on her neighbor’s house last week, she wanted to cry.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, someone painted vulgarities and racist messages, including “KKK” and the n-word, on Marvin Phillips’ home in Tenino, Wash.

They also vandalized the pickup truck that Phillips uses to take his son to football practice three times a week.

The family was away, camping in the mountains. So Russell and other neighbors banded together quickly to erase the damage so their friends wouldn’t have to look at the hateful words.

“It was like I had to fix it,” Russell told Q13 Fox in Seattle.

It fell to Officer Susie Wilson of the Tenino Police Department to call Phillips and tell him what had happened.

“I was very angry, I was embarrassed, I was sad, I was very frustrated,” Wilson told the TV station. “This is my town, my community, this is where I patrol.”

Russell runs the football team that Phillips’ son plays for. She rounded up about 50 volunteers — teammates, other neighbors, even people who didn’t know the family — who spent four hours on Saturday scrubbing, cleaning and painting.

They erased the words from the truck. They covered the house with primer and fresh green paint.

“It’s too cruddy of a world to have this kind of stuff happen in your own community and not do something about it,” one of the volunteers, Mike Vanderhoof, who works for a local fire department, told KOMO TV in Seattle.

“Main thing is we wanted to make sure the family didn’t see this. Nobody (needs) this kind of junk in their life. Nobody needs that kind of hate speech.”

TV cameras were there when Phillips and his family got home.

The neighbors didn’t want to tell him what had been erased.

“I was told it was graffiti, and nobody wanted to say what it really was,” Phillips told Q13 Fox. “They finally said, ‘Marvin, it was the n-word and KKK, stuff like that.’

“I don’t think what happened to me exemplified what’s going on in Tenino, I think the outcome of it shows what’s happening in Tenino.”

He told KOMO that he’d seen such filthy language before. But he was grateful that his community had spared his children from it.

Police are investigating the incident as a possible crime. They have no suspects.

“I would say love conquered this hate,” Russell said, “and we need a little bit more in this world.”

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