The George Washington monument, located at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, was vandalized overnight with red paint and graffiti. The words “Destroy Racists” and the initials for the Black Lives Matter movement was written on the base.
Police reported Sunday morning that they had not received any complaints about the vandalism. Statues and memorials to the Confederacy have been targeted across the South, protesters have also targeted Founding Fathers who were slaveholders, including Washington. In 2017, Baltimore removed several statues and memorials linked to the Confederacy.
The vandalism comes as massive protests decrying systemic racism and police’s treatment of minority communities have swept across the country. The massive demonstrations sparked after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, an African-American man who died last month after an officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 49 seconds.
Other cities and states have started to remove statues of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. There is still an ongoing debate as to how to handle monuments to slaveholders and America’s early settlers, who held explicitly racist views of Black people and other minorities.
Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey had introduced a bill this week that would rename the obelisk monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Herring Run Park as the Police Violence Victims Monument.
Since 2017, Dorsey has been working on renaming the 228-year-old monument when it was damaged. He conducted a survey of area residents at the time to gather input on how the statue could be renamed to represent better “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 statue 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 had 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.