The George Washington monument in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park was vandalized overnight with what appeared to be red paint and graffiti, with “Destroy Racists,” anti-police sentiment and a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement written at its base.
A police spokeswoman said the department has not received any complaints of vandalism at the northwest Baltimore park overnight.
The vandalism comes as massive protests decrying systemic racism and police’s treatment of minority communities have swept across the country, spurred by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, a black man who died last month after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Some groups have turned their attention statues memorializing Confederate leaders or former slave owners, such as the first president, asking for them to be removed from public squares.
In some instances, protesters have themselves toppled the monuments, such as in North Carolina, where two bronze statues of Confederate soldiers were pulled down at the state Capitol grounds. On Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered three Confederate monuments removed to protect public safety, he said in a statement.
In San Francisco, protesters brought down the statue of Francis Scott Key, a Maryland native who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a War of 1812 battle at Fort McHenry. His legacy has also come under scrutiny in recent years as he came from a wealthy slave-owning family and defended slavery as an attorney in the District of Columbia.
While more cities and states have begun to remove statues of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers, there’s still an ongoing debate as to how to handle monuments to slave holders and America’s early settlers, who held explicitly racist views of Black people and other minorities.
Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey is slated to introduce a bill this week that would rename the obelisk monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Herring Run Park as the Police Violence Victims Monument.
Dorsey has been working to rename the 228-year-old monument since 2017 when it was damaged. He conducted a survey of area residents at the time to gather input on how the monument could be renamed to better represent “current-day values.”
A video was posted to YouTube in 2017 showing a man striking the base of the monument with a sledgehammer. Another person held a sign that read: “Racism, tear it down.” Another sign taped to the monument read: “The future is racial and economic justice.”
The 44-foot obelisk is believed to be the first monument in the country to honor Columbus. It was erected in 1792 to honor the 300th anniversary of his journey from Europe. Baltimore also has a Columbus statue in its Little Italy neighborhood.
Columbus, a 15th century explorer who’d been credited by history textbooks as discovering America, has seen his historical image reexamined as more attention has been drawn to the fact he violently enslaved the native people.
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In Philadelphia, the city Art Commission said Friday it will consider moving its statue of Christopher Columbus after the statue became the focus of protests this month.
President Trump has decried the removal of such monuments, calling the toppling of a statue commemorating Confederate general Albert Pike in Washington D.C. Friday night a “disgrace.”
Baltimore removed its four Confederate monuments overnight in 2017. At the time, officials removed the statues in the dead of night in fear of spurring an event similar to what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier in the year. A rally by Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists turned violent and a counter-protester was killed when a Neo-Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd.
The Lee-Jackson Monument in Baltimore’s Wyman Park Dell, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway, and the Roger B. Taney Monument in Mount Vernon, had been installed from 1887 to 1948.
(While he did not join the Confederacy, Taney infamously wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision, upholding slavery in the lead-up to the Civil War, as chief justice of the Supreme Court.)
As for Washington, the country’s first president is said to have had nearly 150 slaves and perpetuated Black bondage during his presidency. In 1793, he signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which allowed for fugitive slaves to be arrested in any state and returned to their owners.
Baltimore Sun reporters Emily Opilo and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.