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Racist graffiti painted over by community groups

A community organization is again making good on its mission statement.

NyE Communities Coalition’s main focus is building healthy communities across Nye, Lincoln, and Esmeralda counties.

On Thursday, members of the coalition’s Youth WERKS program concentrated their efforts on a business along north David Street where vandals defaced Z &S Imports in the 3000 block of North David Street, with bigoted, racist graffiti on all sides of the building.

When Stacy Smith, executive director of the coalition, learned of the vandalism, she wanted to help the business owner and target of the graffiti, Vic Ahmed, by sending members of the Youth WERKS program to ‘Paint Against Hate.’

Youth WERKS is NyECC’s youth workforce development program for ages 16-21 who are focused on attaining an education credential, workforce readiness and work experience.

Armed with rollers and paint brushes, the coalition group began painting over the graffiti just before sunrise.

The coalition enlisted some help from Pahrump Valley High School’s JROTC program.

Cadet Lt. Col. Dylan Metscher said he was approached by a friend at the coalition to volunteer to help with the effort, which began at 5:45 a.m.

“I came out here to help them out and I tried to get a few of the cadets here but they couldn’t make it,” he said. “We have about eight volunteers painting today.”

Metscher also said when he heard about the vandalism several weeks ago, he felt compelled to do something positive.

“I obviously did not like it because we don’t need that kind of stuff in our community,” he said. “I felt that something needed to be done and now, something is being done. It took more than one coat of paint to get this covered up.”

Ahmed began leasing the building in 2008. Ahmed, who is of Indian heritage and subscribes to the Muslim faith, has been restoring Volkswagen vehicles for more than 35 years, beginning in California.

The 15-year resident said when Smith from the coalition approached him about the proposal, he was just ‘knocked out.’

“It was a very pleasant surprise when I learned the students were coming out here to paint over the graffiti,” he said. “I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that I would have to end up doing it myself, while having to look at that unpleasant stuff while I was doing it.”

Ahmed also said Smith told him he did not have to be present at the site while the students painted over the graffiti.

“I told her no way, because I wanted to be here,” he said. “I, along with my wife, showed up here at 6 a.m. and we’ve been here ever since. It’s a very pleasant surprise and I’m really happy that these young people are actually doing something constructive instead of the other alternatives.”

When Ahmed first discovered the vandalism, he said he was more appalled than outraged by the act.

“I was actually hurt that people still have these kinds of feelings about other people,” he said. “I know there’s hatred and it’s fed by the ignorance in some people. “Educated people treat me just fine.”

Also at the site on Thursday was the owner of the building.

Joe, who preferred not to give his full name, said he was equally shocked that more than a half-dozen members of the community wanted to help paint over the graffiti.

He also said officials at Pahrump’s Home Depot provided a $50 donation toward the effort.

“My goodness, after going through a whole lot of bureaucracy, someone recommended the coalition,” he said. “Stacy Smith at the coalition has just been incredible and I’m just so grateful for the kids and everyone who came out here. I am amazed that the community came together like this.”

Joe, who said he’s living on a fixed income, also said he was not exactly sure how he would be able to mitigate the graffiti without the help of the volunteers.

“I’m not that young anymore so I’m not sure how I would have been able to take care of this myself,” he said. “I’m living on a fixed income and it certainly would have been a challenge for me to undertake this whole thing alone. I just can’t say enough about their generosity. Everyone, especially Stacy Smith at the coalition who has just been wonderful and I’m so very proud of them all.”

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is asking state and federal law enforcement to join the investigation.

According to the sheriff’s office, deputies were dispatched at approximately 4:30 p.m., on July 24 to the business and discovered that the building had been spray-painted with derogatory terms apparently directed at Ahmed.

Ahmed, meanwhile, said business has been slow as of late, but he’s hopeful things will pick back up soon.

“For a self-employed person like me that depends on this as my livelihood, it is the death of my business and I have to pick up the pieces and try to catch up,” Ahmed said. “I have to continue because I’ve been doing this for 35 years and hopefully it won’t happen again. Every once in a while I’ll get a call for parts where I’ll pack them up and ship them out but otherwise, I’m here sitting in the shop building motors and building cars. That’s all I can say.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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