A statue of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass was torn from its base in Rochester, New York on Sunday, 168 years to the day since the city was the setting for one of his greatest speeches, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
What We Know:
- The statue stood in Maplewood Park, a site on the Underground Railroad, the network through which Douglass and Harriet Tubman, both escaped slaves themselves, and others helped ferry people enslaved in southern states to freedom in the north.
- One of 13 statues, which were placed around Rochester in 2018 on the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth, was found next to a river gorge, about 50ft from its pedestal, police said. The base and a finger were damaged.
- Carvin Eison, who worked on the project which brought the statues to the city, told the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper: “It’s particularly painful that it happened at this time … It’s really sad because here in Rochester the statue of Frederick Douglass has always been a face of good.”
- Since the killing of George Floyd, an African American man in Minneapolis on May 25, prompted nationwide protests against police brutality and structural racism, statues of Confederate leaders and others with outdated views on race have been targeted for protest, vandalism, and removal.
- President Donald Trump has placed himself at the head of a counter-movement, defending Confederate heritage and, over the Fourth of July weekend, calling for the creation of his own sculpture park, or “National Garden of American Heroes”, in defiance of supposed “far-left fascism”.
- “Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over confederate monuments right now?” Eison told local TV station WROC. “It’s beyond disappointing.”
Rochester Police have not publicly identified any suspects. Nothing else in the park was found to be vandalized or graffitied, and no one so far has claimed responsibility for the damage to the statue of Douglass.