Now Is a Bad Time to Be a Racist Statue


As protests against police brutality continue across the country, one by one, monuments to racists, slave owners, and other genocidal figures are tumbling down. The city of Birmingham, Alabama, announced that it will remove a monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors in a public park. In North Carolina, Asheville is doing the same. Dallas is asking the Texas Supreme Court for permission to immediately remove its own Confederate monument. The Carolina Panthers are even taking down a statue of racist former team owner Jerry Richardson.

This week, protesters in many cities showed that the monuments aren’t coming down fast enough. In Miami on Wednesday night, protesters spray-painted statues of Christopher Columbus, the man at the forefront of the Native American genocide and slave trade, and the conquistador Ponce de León. In St. Paul, Minnesota, a group of protesters reportedly led by Native American activists ripped down another statue of Columbus using a rope. And Tuesday night, a Columbus statue in Boston was decapitated. Also Tuesday, protesters in Richmond, Virginia, many carrying signs with slogans like “This land is Powhatan land” and “Columbus represents genocide,” tore down still another statue of Columbus and dumped it in a park lake.

The Richmond Columbus may have gotten off easy. On Wednesday, protesters steadily and meticulously defaced and demolished a Confederate monument in nearby Portsmouth. Four statues adorned the massive monument outside of the old Norfolk County courthouse, and after covering them in paint—with handprints, “Black Lives Matter,” and just upended paint buckets—protesters broke off one statue’s rifle and saber, which they then gave to 73-year-old Black Vietnam vet John Hooks. According to local Herald Media, Hooks said, “You’ve kept your foot on our neck for 401 damn years. When are you going to get the hell off?”

Reporter Matt Jones of the Hampton Roads, Virginia, Daily Press documented the monument’s defacement on Twitter in a lengthy thread of videos. Some protesters artfully defaced the statues, with twine wrapped around the eyes and heads. Then it got more pyrotechnic.

Eventually those statues, too, lost their heads.

Senator Ted Cruz, who has often downplayed the facts and severity of police brutality in the U.S., solemnly tweeted news of this week’s statue defacing, calling protesters “American Taliban.” Meanwhile, even Nascar is ditching slave-owner regalia—on Wednesday, the stock-car racing organization announced it would no longer allow Confederate flags at its events.

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