Someone did it, but who?
The reaction was swift and indignant.
After a Long Island resident posted a picture of a piece of Painted Rock in his hands, and after someone contacted The Block Island Times about a person who had vandalized the rock, social media went into full gear, full of venom and fury.
But the individual who had the fire aimed at him, Jeff Sellars of Long Island, said he wasn’t the one who chiseled off the chip.
“We enjoy everything about Block Island and never would do anything to hurt it,” Sellars said by phone on Wednesday.
He said that he had arrived by plane to the island with his daughter to paint a picture on the rock.
“I went there Sunday morning with my daughter. It was around 11 and we were doing what we normally do. We had our paint to paint something on the rock and she said, ‘I found a piece of the rock.’ It’s not actually the rock, it’s just the paint,” Sellars said. “I just thought it was interesting and went ahead and shared it on social media and all of a sudden it was, ‘Oh my God!’ I just thought it was a chip off the bottom. A lot of people were blaming me. I just thought I’d share the photo, but unfortunately…”
A lot of people did blame Sellars. After posting a picture of the chipped apron of paint, which is located at the back of the Rock, reaction on The Block Island Times Facebook page was furious, and kept up for almost 24 hours. The message from The Times was, given that whomever chipped off the paint had done it deliberately, was to have respect for all of the island’s landmarks.
Actual proof or not, people reposted Sellars’ original pictures from another Facebook page, and calls for his arrest and other forms of street justice followed, along with myriad other observations.
“This is SO BAD on so many levels. How does someone do this and sleep at night????” one post said.
“This is beyond horrific. If you can’t respect your surroundings, STAY HOME!!!!” said another.
“At what point does ‘painted rock’ become a toxic site that is harmful to the island?” wrote another.
Not everyone was out to condemn: “Jeff has posted that he did not do the vandalism and provided a reasonable accounting of events. While the truth may not be known, the accusations thrown at a man without hearing his side is probably worse than what happened to the rock,” one person wrote.
Sellars himself tried to put it in perspective: “In the big picture it’s probably silly,” he said, “but it did hit the heart of many people.”