Baltimore officials to consider how to protect statues after vandalism incidents

Baltimore parks and historic preservation officials are assessing what can be done to better protect statues and monuments after a string of vandalism incidents.

In the latest incident, a statue honoring the national anthem in Patterson Park was found splattered with red paint Monday morning. The words “racist anthem” were written on the sidewalk below.

The paint on the sidewalk had been removed by a city crew Tuesday, a city spokeswoman said, but officials were still determining the best way to clean the statue without damaging it.

Reginald Moore, the director of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, said his staff were assessing what steps could be taken to protect the city’s statues, several of which have been attacked in recent months.

Moore declined to say what measures were being considered.

The incident Monday follows a similar episode targeting a statue of Francis Scott Key, the author of the poem that became the anthem, in Bolton Hill in September.

The words “racist anthem” also appeared in that incident, an apparent reference to a lesser known third verse in the poem that refers to killing slaves who joined America’s British enemies in the War of 1812.

A monument to explorer Christopher Columbus was also vandalized in an August incident that the perpetrators filmed. His arrival on the island of Hispaniola, now home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, opened the Western hemisphere to colonization by Europeans and their slaves, but also led to the deaths of vast numbers of indigenous people.

A special contractor was brought in to clean the Bolton Hill statue, while officials are still determining how to best re-dedicate the Columbus monument.

The spate of incidents have come amid renewed debate about the way racist incidents and people from America’s history are memorialized in public works of art. Statues to the members of the Confederacy and their sympathizers have come in for the sharpest criticism, and Baltimore removed four such monuments last year.

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