Rioters Vandalize Memorial for African Americans Who Fought to End Slavery
Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial in Boston attacked during 'Black Lives Matter' protest
As a “Black Lives Matter” protest moved through Boston, rioters defaced the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial which was dedicated to African American soldiers who fought to end slavery in the Civil War.
"Memorials in three of the city’s major parks were hit with graffiti and vandalism Sunday night after tensions mounted between demonstrators and police following a day of mostly peaceful protest marches that wound through Boston," The Boston Globe reported.
"One of the memorials targeted by vandals was the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, which was unveiled 137 years ago Sunday and depicts a pioneering group of Black soldiers marching into battle during the Civil War," the newspaper added.
The 54th Regiment Memorial stands at the top of a hill on the Boston Common and was among 16 statues and memorials attacked by rioters.
A website dedicated to the memorial explains:
The most acclaimed piece of sculpture on Boston Common is the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens; a memorial to that group of men who were among the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War.
The monument portrays Shaw and his men marching down Beacon Street past the State House on May 28, 1863 as they left Boston on their way to South Carolina, Shaw erect on his horse, the men marching alongside.
“The Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial was one of 16 public art works damaged when thousands of protesters swarmed Boston Common on Sunday night,” WBUR reported.
The sculpture had received a $3 million restoration grant just last week.
“The conservator’s recent prep work protected the front of the bronze relief with plywood, but its granite backside was vandalized with four-letter words and phrases including ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ and ‘Police are Pigs,’” the outlet reported.
The executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, Liz Vizza, told WBUR that the monument was defaced 123 years to the day that it was dedicated.
“This monument is considered one of the nation’s greatest pieces of public art and the greatest piece to come out of the Civil War,” Vizza told the outlet.
“It was, amazingly enough, dedicated 123 years ago on May 31st – the day it was defaced.”
“How do we make silent stone speak?” she asked.
There are “too many dead white men in parks,” she added.
The Friends of the Public Garden is an advocacy group that protects and cares for 42 sculptures and other works across three different historical parks in Boston.
The Shaw Memorial is one of the sculptures in their care.
Vizza said the defaced sculpture represents soldiers of color, “which I want to lift up.”
“How do we help people understand the power in these monuments?” she asked.
WBUR explained the history of the statue:
The Shaw Memorial captures the likenesses of the first African American volunteer infantry unit – the 54th Massachusetts Regiment – that fought after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Their colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, advocated for the men to join the war because they desperately wanted to fight for freedom.
If the soldiers had been captured in battle they could have been enslaved or killed.
Their heroic story was recounted in the 1989 Hollywood film “Glory.”