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A statue commemorating George Floyd in Manhattan’s Union Square was vandalized Sunday morning, just 48 hours after it was unveiled. The 10-foot-tall bust of Floyd, who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer last May, is one of three new sculptures by artist Chris Carnabuci honoring African American individuals in the park, a frequent site of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The installation, titled #SeeInjustice and organized by Confront Art, also includes statues of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Kentucky last March, and the late Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, who also faced police violence during his life.
Surveillance footage released by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) shows an as-yet-unidentified man on a skateboard splashing the bust and base of Floyd’s sculpture with gray paint as two bystanders appear to look on. The department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident as a criminal mischief offense and asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the perpetrator; no arrests have been made.
“It takes a lot of courage to display the three statues we are exhibiting in Union Square. It also takes a good deal of courage to vandalize a statue on a global stage in broad daylight,” Confront Art told Hyperallergic.
“This continues to bring light to our mission that art is a conversation catalyst, a place for public discourse, and through these acts we can hopefully overcome hate and find unity for the future,” the group added. “We continue to be inspired to create and display public art to further this important mission.”
On Sunday, volunteers gathered at the park to help scrape away the paint. Spatters of pigment and damage from the scraping were still visible on the artwork’s plaque and pedestal this morning. The site is now guarded by a New York City Parks unit and NYPD officers, who told Hyperallergic they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
It’s not the first time the statue has been vandalized. The same bust, part of a traveling installation, was defaced with spray paint and a symbol of the white supremacist group Patriot Front when it was on display on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn during the Juneteenth holiday this summer. Carnabuci told the New York Times that he has since painted the initially plain wooden sculptures to make it easier to restore them in case of future vandalism.
#SeeInjustice, described as a public art project that “bridges monuments with a movement,” will remain in Union Square Park through October 30. The sculptures will then travel to other cities and ultimately sold to benefit charity, said Lindsay Eshelman, who co-founded Confront Art with Andrew Cohen.
“We are working with We Are Floyd, the 501 C3 established by Terrence Floyd — who we consider a partner in this project — as well as making contributions to the Breonna Taylor Foundation and the John and Lillian Lewis Foundation,” Eshelman told Hyperallergic.
In a joint statement with the We Are Floyd Foundation, Terrence Floyd said, “It’s incredibly disappointing how the statues were defaced in such a short amount of time, and it just goes to show you how far we still have to go to reach our goal of unity.”
Hakim Bishara contributed reporting.
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