Colonial Statues Had a Pretty Bad Thanksgiving

Statues of former presidents and colonial monuments were toppled or vandalized this week in at least four U.S. cities.
November 27, 2020, 5:18pm
A sign hangs from the statue of George Washington in Union Square, New York, during a rally in June in response to the killing of George Floyd.
A sign hangs from the statue of George Washington in Union Square, New York, during a rally in June in response to the killing of George Floyd. Photo by John Lamparski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Statues honoring U.S. politicians, colonists, and veterans of land wars that displaced Indigenous peoples were defaced or toppled over Thanksgiving in at least four cities, with multiple arrests made in Portland for alleged vandalism of several businesses. 

In Portland, a war memorial in the city’s Lone Fir Cemetery dedicated in 1903 to veterans of the Mexican-American War was vandalized and a statue torn down the night before Thanksgiving, according to KOIN

Photos of the memorial posted Thursday show it tagged with reddish-purple paint, anarchist symbols, and the message “Fuck USA.”

Portland police said Wednesday they had arrested three people for allegedly tagging and breaking windows at businesses in the city’s Hawthorne District, and charged them with 10 counts of criminal mischief, a class C felony. Class C felonies in Oregon carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines.

A statue of former President George Washington in Minneapolis was toppled and splashed with red and yellow paint on Thursday, according to left-wing journalism and activist collective Unicorn Riot. In another park in the city, a monument to colonists was defaced with anti-capitalist and anti-colonial messages including “no more genocide” and “land back,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

In downtown Spokane, Washington, a statue of former President Abraham Lincoln was splashed with red paint. 

While best-known for leading the U.S. through the Civil War and helping to end slavery with the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments, Lincoln was responsible for displacement and war crimes against Native Americans, including the execution of 38 members of the Dakota Tribe—the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

And in Chicago earlier this week, protesters tried (and failed) to pull down a statue of former President William McKinley, ultimately defacing the statue with the message “land back.” Prior to his assassination in 1901, McKinley pushed for the assimilation of large Native tribes including the Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Chickasaw. 

The defacing and toppling of the statues comes during a year of widespread removal of monuments to the Confederacy and racist figures in both the U.S. and around the world. More than 130 statues in over three dozen states have been removed since the beginning of racial justice protests in May following George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officers, NBC News reported in September.