by Pete Mazzaccaro
Chestnut Hill became world famous last week when it was revealed that one of two vandals of the neighborhood’s Fresh Market was an attorney for the City of Philadelphia. What might otherwise have gone unnoticed by onlookers outside of this zip code became one more loud shot fired in the ongoing culture war left behind by the election of Donald Trump.
Duncan Lloyd, 32, was identified late Tuesday, Nov. 29, following widespread dissemination of security camera footage that showed him walking with another young man – yet to be identified – sporting a blazer and holding a glass of wine.
The footage showed that on the morning of Friday, Nov. 25, right after midnight, Lloyd and his companion made several marks in black spray paint on the building, culminating in the words “F— Trump.”
It is unclear if Lloyd, whose social media accounts indicated he was a graduate of Germantown Friends School and Temple Law School, is a resident of Chestnut Hill or was just visiting.
The crime was a small one by city standards. According to Philadelphia Code 10-501(1) (Property— Damaging, Defacing and Interfering With), graffiti is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $300. There are provisions in the code that call for those found guilty of graffiti to pay restitution to the owner of the defaced property. With initial reports of the damage cited between $3,000 and $10,000, any damages paid by the vandals could be far greater than a criminal fine.
But in today’s political climate, a misdemeanor act of graffiti, particularly by a wine drinking man in a blazer, is a loaded metaphor for the privileged and out-of-touch supporters of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. (Though it should be noted that nowhere in the video released by the police can Lloyd be seen to do any more than watch his companion spray paint the Fresh Market building.)
Lloyd’s story soon went viral. It was reported in publications from the Washington Times to the Daily Mail to online only outlets like Mashable and Perezhilton.com. Every publication gleefully noted the details of Lloyd’s dress and of his wine glass.
One highly cited blog post about the incident on the legal blog Above the Law by Elie Mystal, a former attorney who has written for New York Daily News and the New York Times, wrote that Lloyd is representative of ineffectual liberal protest.
“This is our life now, hyper-educated coastal elites. We’re not going to stock up on guns and insta-waffles. We’re not going to hop in a Prius and ethanol-roll motorists we disagree with. We’re not going to burn an American flag, because we don’t own an American flag,” Mystal wrote. “All we can do is turn up our noses, drown ourselves in an earthy vintage, and tastefully vandalize what establishments we pass.”
Philadelphia’s Republican Party Chairman Joe DeFelice also noted the metaphor.
“If the image of an upper-middle-class city attorney clad in a blazer and sipping wine while vandalizing an upscale grocery store with an anti-Trump message strikes you as perhaps the most bourgeois sight imaginable, that’s because it is,” he told Philly.com
DeFelice demanded Lloyd lose his job, something as of this writing that was not a certain outcome.
Asked later last week, Mayor Jim Kenney called Lloyd’s actions a “dumb mistake” and hinted it might not be an offense over which Lloyd deserves to lose his job.
“It’s still working out. It’s certainly hateful and inappropriate and unacceptable,” Mayor Jim Kenney told Philly.com. “But people are human beings and they make mistakes and it’s a dumb mistake. It’s hateful graffiti, hateful graffiti is never acceptable whether it’s a city employee or not.”
As of this writing, police had yet to make an arrest or ID the actual perpetrator of the graffiti on fresh market and had not indicated whether or not Lloyd would be charged.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.