A statue for Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became a prominent civil rights advocate, has been torn down from its pedestal in Rochester, New York state. The damage to the monument is reportedly too significant to fix it.
The statue was vandalized over the July 4th weekend, Rochester police told local media on Sunday.
Photos from the scene show an empty spot where the statue used to stand in Maplewood Park, as well as its debris scattered in the vicinity. The statue was lying some 50 feet from its pedestal, when officers found it.
The statue “had been placed over the fence to the gorge and was leaning against the fence”, police said in a statement, as cited by The Democrat and Chronicle daily.
Carvin Eison, director of the “Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass” Project, said the monument was beyond repairs and will need to be replaced with a new one.
“It’s particularly painful that it happened at this time,” he said.
Dozens of statues have been knocked off their pedestals across the country in a monument-toppling spree championed by Black Lives Matter activists, which see it is a way of reckoning with the nation’s troubling legacy of slavery. While the initial targets of the protesters were confederate generals, later vandalism, which met little resistance from law enforcement, saw the statues of Christopher Columbus and other historic figures being removed as well.
It’s so far unclear who was behind the Douglass statue incident.
The monument, inaugurated in 2018 to mark Douglass’s 200th birthday, is part of a city-wide installation consisting of 13 statues – all replicas of a larger statue of Douglass, which was unveiled in Rochester’s Highland Park neighborhood in 1899. The statues were put throughout the city in places that bear significance to the abolitionist’s life in a bid to bolster his legacy.
In a speech in 1852, Douglass made a case against celebrating July 4th by African-Americans, saying: “The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
“The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine”-Frederick Douglass, 1852 pic.twitter.com/ba2hPlj2y7
— National Museum of American History (@amhistorymuseum) July 4, 2020
It’s not the first time the installation has been targeted by vandals. In December 2018, two Rochester’s St. John Fisher College students were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor after they were filmed dismantling one of the statues and stealing it. Students claimed they were drunk and later apologized, calling what they had done to the statue “a terrible thing” and offering help to repair the monument.
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