Artist Scott Marsh painted a beautiful mural of the late George Michael entitled “St. George” in Erskineville, Sydney, following the singer’s death in December 2016.
But, when the country of Australia voted “Yes” on same-sex marriage in 2017, 24-year-old Ben Gittany elected to take matters into his own hands.
According to Buzzfeed News, Gittany “travelled from his home town near Bathurst to Erskineville, stopping at Bunnings to buy $135 worth of supplies” in order to cover the mural in a thick black layer of paint.
The Australian community, horrified at the act of hatred, wrote messages of support and love over the defacing.
Gittany, who is a self-described Christian, said at the time:
I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m defending my religion.”
The law disagreed. Gittany was caught red-handed and prosecuted, sentenced to 300 hours of community service and a $14,000 AUD fine.
— MarcusPlsJustAddressThat (@ScarletOHairer) September 4, 2018
The Magistrate, Carolyn Huntsman, who sentenced the man, said that his crime “harmed a community. You travelled to someone else’s community and imposed your views on them with an act that was criminal and harmful.
“What was left [on the wall] was a large area of black paint which arguably was a disturbing message of rejection to the community and arguably a contempt for other people.
“We are not a community where violence, criminal acts and property destruction are sanctioned because you have different beliefs to other people. They had to look at it for months. It distressed the owner and the community, and it was extensive.”
In response, the mural will be reinstated.
— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) July 27, 2018
standing up for @GeorgeMichael is a blessing thank you for that and Good luck xxx
— yvonne breevaart (@YBreevaart67_63) July 27, 2018
I was heartbroken when that jerk vandalized the mural. Art should be for everyone to enjoy. It's not meant to be destroyed. He's not religious in any way! Christ told us to love one another, he never put any conditions on love. As an artist and a Christian I was mortified!
— Sophie ️ ✍Fotini (@sophiefotini) July 27, 2018
“Every time you have to spend hours washing damaged walls you can reflect on your own conduct.”
Gittany has made no comments about his sentencing at this time.