News that a man took a pickaxe to President Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame saddened Richmond Hill resident Katelyn Sahlberg, a Trump supporter who knows that star better than most in Bryan County.
A year ago, Sahlberg, 22, was in Hollywood with family members and, as they walked along Hollywood Boulevard, she sought out Trump’s star.
“I really wanted to see it,” she said.
What she found was someone had vandalized the monument to Trump’s days as a reality TV star with black spray paint.
“There was a crowd around his star,” Sahlberg said. “People were spitting on it, making obscene gestures, laughing at it.”
Sahlberg said she couldn’t just walk away. So she and her sisters used baby wipes and hand sanitizer to clean the spray paint off.
It took about half an hour, perhaps. The effort drew a crowd.
“Some people were telling us thanks, but not a lot” Sahlberg recalled. “Some people were laughing at us. Some were spitting on the star, some were making obscene gestures.”
It began to get ugly, she said, but then one man stopped to help. Sahlberg said he told them he was from Iran and lived near Hollywood Boulevard.
“He stopped and got down on his hands and knees and he was saying we were very brave for doing this,” she said. “He said he walks past every day on his way to work and every day it’s vandalized. He said he’d never before had the courage to clean it, but when he saw us cleaning it, it touched him and inspired him to get down and help. It was very nice to talk to him.”
Sahlberg said she briefly thought she might be assaulted, “because of the amount of hate you could feel and the hateful things people were saying. It was a little scary.”
Later that night, Sahlberg was watching TV in the motel when she learned the star had been vandalized again – despite a security guard being nearby.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is the organization behind the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which consists of more than 2,600 stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks on Hollywood Avenue and three blocks on Vine Street, according to the Chamber’s website.
It is maintained by the Hollywood Business Improvement District, according to Marlene Panoyan, director of communications and social media for the Hollywood Chamber.
In an email, she said a private vendor is paid to wash the stars twice a week. Panoyan didn’t know how many times Trump’s star has been vandalized how many like Sahlberg clean it up, but provided a link to a quote from Leron Gubler, the president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber. The quote was issued after the star was destroyed July 25.
“The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an institution celebrating the positive contributions of the inductees,” Gubler said. “When people are unhappy with one of our honorees, we would hope that they would project their anger in more positive ways than to vandalize a California state landmark. Our democracy is based on respect for the law. People can make a difference by voting and not destroying public property.”
“I just think it’s disrespectful,” she said of those who vandalize property. “It’s so disrespectful to vandalize someone else’s hard work. It’s really rude.”
Sahlberg was a first-time voter when she went to the ballot box in 2016 and cast her vote for President Trump.
“I voted for Trump for a lot of reasons,” she said. “I think we need a businessman in office, because we’re so in debt. And I like his policies, I like that he’s taking the initiative helping the military, and he’s supportive of the police. We’ve got fallen soldiers coming back from North Korea because he’s making peace with North Korea. I just like a lot of what he does. He is very opinionated, but I feel like he doesn’t take anything from anyone, and that’s earned a lot of respect from other countries.”
Sahlberg, a nursing student at Georgia Southern, said some of her friends share her political views, others don’t. Debates can get heated, but people should still have the right to disagree, she said.
“Let me have my views and you have your views. If your views are different than mine, let’s talk about it in a mature way and agree to disagree,” she said. “The people that are so hateful they are vandalizing property are just wasting their time, channeling all their energy into hating him. What they’re doing isn’t affecting Donald Trump. He’s still in office, he’s still our president.”
Sahlberg said she decided to write the president to let him know there are people who support him.
“I also sent him pictures in my letter of me cleaning his star,” Sahlberg said. “I wasn’t expecting a response.”
She got one. It came in the form of a letter on official White House stationary.
It said Trump and his wife Melania were “heartened” by her actions and thanked her for her support. Trump wrote he wished her luck in her studies and her nursing career, and his jagged signature in Sharpie bled through the sheet of paper.
“Sometimes I feel like he could find the cure for cancer, and people would still criticize him,”
Sahlberg said. “I just wanted him to know he does have supporters.”
Postscript: The Washington Post reported July 29 a fight took place at Trump’s Hollywood Boulevard star between those who support Trump and those who don’t.