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Battered Wellsville responds to message of hate with love

The Allegany County village of Wellsville was in the news for the wrong reasons last week, as "Make America White Again" graffiti – accompanied by a swastika – trended nationally and internationally as a disturbing response to the election of Donald Trump.

Wellsville's citizens have tried to turn the message on its head with three street art creations, intended to show compassion and love in the face of recent hate.

The sign initiative was spurred by David Fredrickson, a ceramic kiln builder who lives in Alfred, who posted three signs in the village: one in a vacant lot on Main Street, another in the window of Wellsville Creative Arts Center and another leaning against the window of Dollar General, facing the highway.

"This isn't about me," said Fredrickson. "If I learned anything from the election, it's that if you don't speak up, then you endorse things" you don't want.

A "Make America Kind Again" sign hands from the window of the Wellsville Creative Arts Center. (David Fredrickson)

A "Make America Kind Again" sign hangs from the window of the Wellsville Creative Arts Center. (David Fredrickson)

"It's not political; it's about social justice," he continued. "We can't allow young people to accept hate as something we subscribe to."

A "Make America Care Again" sign was originally posted on the dugout of the Wellsville Little League, the same location as the original hate graffiti.

The sign was removed yesterday, however, but the Wellsville Little League board has chosen not to prosecute, Fredrickson noted.

The sign was then painted over to read "kind" instead of "care," which better represents the message, the creator added.

Andrew Harris, owner of Sunset Farm in Wellsville, shared the images on Facebook Sunday night, receiving a largely positive response.

[Related: Smiles at Humanity Over Oppression rally in Niagara Square]

If you're not familiar with the symbolism of the safety pin, PBS passes along an explanation.

"Some Americans are wearing safety pins as a symbol of solidarity with victims of racism, homophobia and religious discrimination," the media organization wrote.

In other words, the wearing of a pin is intended to show tolerance, compassion and safety. Vanity Fair tackled the safety pin topic, too.

Previously, news organizations such as the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, USA Today, ABC News and many more latched onto the racist message in Wellsville, drawing undesired attention to a quiet village of roughly 4,500.

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered an investigation into the racist graffiti.

“New York has zero tolerance for bigotry, fear and hatred, and those who seek to undermine the core values this state and nation were founded upon,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I have ordered a full investigation into this deplorable act, and those responsible for this conduct will be held to the fullest extent of the law.”

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