A statue in Rochester, New York, of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was destroyed over the July Fourth holiday weekend. According to police, the statue, one of 13 that were erected in the city in 2018, was ripped from its base on Sunday in Maplewood Park, a site along the Underground Railroad where Douglass and Harriet Tubman helped shuttle slaves to freedom, and was carried about 50 feet to a site near the Genesee River gorge. The Associated Press reports that there was damage to the base and a finger.
The base where a Frederick Douglass statue was torn from in Rochester’s Maplewood Rose Garden. It was found just over that fence in the background with damage. I’m told this base will now have to be dug up if the statue does return. LIVE on @13WHAM @FoxRochester pic.twitter.com/Le6x3lGfR8— Michael_Schwartz (@MSchwartzWHAM) July 6, 2020
The statue's removal came on the anniversary of Douglas' famous speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," which he delivered in Rochester in 1852. The speech commented on the celebration of liberty, which he called a sham in a nation that enslaves and oppresses its Black citizens. Douglas said that to enslaved peoples, Independence Day is "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim."
At this time, the motive behind the vandalism has not been confirmed, though Carvin Eison, Project director, re-energize the legacy of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration, suggested that it was the result of the current racial tensions in the nation. Speaking with RochesterFirst.com, Eison asked, "What comes of this? Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over confederate monuments right now? Very disappointing it's beyond disappointing." Rev. Julius D Jackson Jr., seemed to agree with that, stating that he would "like to believe it’s not that, it was just some kids. But it wouldn't surprise me if it's some retaliatory, something going on." President Donald Trump, meanwhile, blamed it on "anarchists," writing on Twitter that "this shows that these anarchists have no bounds!"
50 feet away this morning pic.twitter.com/GTnjbT1eVd— Michael_Schwartz (@MSchwartzWHAM) July 6, 2020
The Sunday incident marks the second such statue to be vandalized. In 2018, a statue of Douglas was ripped down in the city by two drunk college students. Those students were suspended from St. John Fisher for the vandalism and charged with criminal mischief. That statue was later replaced. At this time, no suspects have been identified in connection to the vandalism and the investigation is ongoing. Due to the extensive damage, the statue will have to be replaced.