Confederate Statues Are Being Defaced Across The South With This Powerful Message
In South Carolina and the state of Maryland, icons memorializing the Southern Confederacy have been defaced with a familiar three-letter slogan this week — and it's a pretty powerful one. "Black Lives Matter" has been painted on Confederate memorials in Charleston, Baltimore, and Austin, Texas, in a bold act of vandalism no doubt intended to send a strong message to any Confederate-reverent citizens of the South. Confederate iconography has been under an enormous spotlight since last week, following a deadly mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston that left nine dead.
The outcry was plain to see for visitors to the city's White Point Garden, where a statue stands to remember "the Confederate defenders of Charleston." According to the New York Daily News, the words "Black Lives Matter" and "This is the problem #Racism" were painted in red across the base of the statue. Somebody ultimately wrapped the bottom of the statue with a tarp to conceal the message.
Another such memorial met the same fate in Baltimore this week. As detailed by The Baltimore Sun, the statue went up in the 1903 to honor sailors who fought in service of the Confederacy. Now, it's been tagged with the same slogan as the one in Charleston: "Black Lives Matter."
And then, as if picking up steam, two more such monuments were met with identical treatment, this time in the state of Texas. As detailed by Business Insider, three statues on the University of Texas at Austin campus honoring Confederate military officers — including ones of Jefferson Davis and Albert Sidney Johnston — were spray-painted with "Black Lives Matter" in bright red letters Monday night.
Baltimore and Charleston have particularly been hotspots in recent months for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has become the most powerful modern iteration of the American Civil Rights movement we've seen in years. In Baltimore, the inciting incident — underlaid by years of outcry about police violence and hate crimes — was the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray on April 12, 2015, who was fatally injured while in police custody. Six Baltimore police officers have since been criminally charged over Gray's death. All of them have pleaded not guilty, and a trial is scheduled for October.
In Charleston, the catalyzing incident wasn't the result of police violence, but a grisly massacre. Last Wednesday , authorities apprehended 21-year-old Dylann Roof after he allegedly shot and killed nine black parishioners at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston. He has since been charged with murder for all nine victims, in what was reportedly a premeditated and racially-motivated act, as evidenced by Roof's alleged manifesto and his embrace of the Confederate flag. Both details have since thrust South Carolina's often reverent attitude toward the Confederacy under a stark light this past week.
On the flag issue, there at least appears to be some movement. Despite having voiced support for it as recently as last year, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has reversed course, and now wants it removed from government grounds entirely.
Many people have voiced objections to the defacement on social media, tweeting complaints like, "Can't you protest without breaking the law?" and "Why deface historical, public monuments?" For what it's worth, breaking the law and being willing to risk arrest have been a central burden of protest and civil rights movements for decades. And considering the vandalism here is no worse than a smattering of paint — albeit paint marring tributes to members of an explicitly racist, pro-slavery military rebellion — why not save the tsk-tsk.