STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit suburb is defending the recent unveiling of a large mural of police officers holding hands with heads bowed in front of the American flag.

Sterling Heights said it has no plans to remove the mural, despite regret expressed by the artist and an acknowledgment by the Detroit Institute of Arts, a partner in the project, that some people are offended by the image.

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The mural, titled “To Serve and Protect,” is a replica of a painting that was in the lobby of the Sterling Heights police department.

“So people are now saying that it’s like bowing and praying in front of the flag, which is just gross,” artist Nicole Macdonald told the Metro Times, a weekly publication in Detroit. “I mean, I understand the reaction.”

Sterling Heights said the art institute, known as the DIA, approached the city in 2018 about a public art project, one of many in the region.

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The mural “reflects our city’s diversity, unity, peaceful and humble service, honor, introspection, and dedication to our city,” Sterling Heights said in a statement Wednesday. “It also serves as a memorial to the city’s officers who died in the line of duty with its placement directly adjacent to our newly renovated veterans memorial garden.”

The DIA said, “much has transpired in our country” since the project began, an apparent reference to racial unrest and excessive force by police, The Detroit News reported.

“To support healing, we will continue investing in partnerships with community-based nonprofits in the tri-county region led by and serving the BIPOC community,” the DIA said, referring to Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

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