Yesterday, officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found a statue commemorating Civil War Confederate veterans spray-painted with the words “Murderer,” “KKK,” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” The bronze soldier, known on campus as “Silent Sam” stands in remembrance of 321 university alumni who lost their lives in battle and was funded by the University Alumni and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The vandals have not yet been caught, but the University swiftly covered the bold edits with a white plastic sheet and denounced the act.
“We welcome all points of view, but damaging or defacing statues is not the way to go about it,” university official Rich White said in a statement. UNC has not announced any plans to remove Silent Sam in response to the impromptu paint job, which is only one of many instances of civil disobedience against symbols of the Confederacy to emerge in recent weeks. Across the nation, many have repeatedly called for the removal of Confederate flags, but it is the widespread tagging of monuments commemorating historic figures that has emerged as an active form of protest. Some, like UNC’s officials, describe these acts as vandalism and denounce the culprits’ disregard for those who have to clean the statues; others praise these “vandals” for standing up for their community (an argument only relevant when such tagged statues are fitting victims for their cause). Below are previous incidents of marked Confederate monuments, most of which resulted in mixed reactions from locals, many hours of scrubbing by government workers, and zero arrests.
Baltimore, Maryland: Five days after the Charleston shootings, a statue erected by the Maryland Daughters Confederacy near the Maryland Institute College of Art was splashed with yellow paint. The original message “To the Soldiers and Sailors of Maryland in the Service of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1864” was covered by the words “Black Lives Matter.”
St. Louis, Missouri: In Forest Park, only 10 miles from Ferguson, the “Black Lives Matter” slogan appeared with a black “X” on a 32-foot-tall monument near the Missouri History Museum. Workers from the Parks Department spent the morning power-washing the sculpture, which includes a depiction of “The Angel of the Spirit of the Confederacy.”
Asheville, North Carolina: Another target was a figure of Zebulon Vance, a Confederate military officer, erected in downtown Asheville in 1897. The memorial, known as an “iconic landmark,” recently underwent restoration, to which the city contributed $11,000.
Durham, North Carolina: “Black Lives Matter” and “Tear It Down” appeared on a graveyard marker honoring local Confederate soldiers.
Charleston, South Carolina: A large monument erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to commemorate the “Confederate Defenders of Charleston” was also tagged and later covered up with tarp. Locals then placed signs on it that read, “All lives matter #charlestonunited” and “Take down racist statues.”
Charleston, South Carolina: Following the first incident in Charleston, others targeted a statue of John C. Calhoun, which originally read, “Truth, Justice, and the Constitution.” The perpetrators tacked on the words “AND SLAVERY” in paint while adding, “Calhoun, RACIST.” Calhoun, who served as U.S. senator from South Carolina and vice president, is now under attack at Yale University, where students and alumni are attempting to scrub his name from a campus building.
Columbia, South Carolina: At Columbia’s State House, vandals hit a statue of former South Carolina governor and white supremacist Ben Tillman with balloons filled with red paint. The figure remains standing, but lawmakers are calling for its removal.
Richmond, Virginia: Last month, a century-old monument dedicated to Jefferson Davis was defaced with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan; located on Monument Avenue, the statue is only one of several honoring Confederate figures such as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
Austin, Texas: At the University of Texas in Austin, vandals marked multiple statues with red paint: officials discovered Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Albert Sidney Johnston inked with the “Black Lives Matter” phrase, prompting University President Greg Fenves to create a task force that will determine the fates of the memorials by August.
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