‘Black Lives Matters’
Last week, the Christopher Columbus Statue located at Christopher Columbus Park was vandalized with red paint and spray painted with “Black Lives Matters” on it. I felt quite sad that things had went that far. I agree with what State Representative Aaron Michlewitz recently said about this (who represents the district) regarding this:
“For someone who was in the neighborhood, I certainly sympathize with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ discussions. But, I think there’s a better way to get your point across than to vandalize public property — even with the complexities that surround Christopher Columbus’ history.”
Daunasia Yancey, founder and lead organizer was known to not take credit, but “support” the message of the vandalized statue. This, had, been followed after a protest by the group at Mayor Walsh’s house at 4 a.m. to which Yancey is said to have been “absolutely effective.”
The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
Also last week, a Confederate Flag was hung from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, which honors the 54th Infantry Regiment, located directly across from the Massachusetts State House. Who were the men of the 54th infantry regiment?
The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial honors one of the first documented African-American regiments formed in the North, which then-Massachusetts Gov. John Andrew instituted in 1863. The infantry’s actions in the war inspired the 1989 movie Glory.
According to the National Park Service, African Americans served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but they weren’t able to fight in the early years of the Civil War because of racist North American sentiments. President Abraham Lincoln changed this in 1863 with a clause in the Emancipation Proclamation that said African Americans could serve in volunteer regiments.
More than 1,000 men came from every region of the North — and some from as far away as the Caribbean — to be part of the regiment. The unit was led by Shaw, a 25-year-old Boston native, who came from a wealthy abolitionist family.
The 54th regiment became famous after an attack on Fort Wagner in South Carolina in July 1863. The outpost was heavily fortified, but it would need to be taken if the Union forces wanted to secure their path to Charleston.
Shaw volunteered his men to lead the assault on Fort Wagner because he was eager to prove their worth in battle. Before the assault, a general pointed to the color bearer of the infantry and asked the troops, “If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?”
According a Globe report from 1954, Shaw, who was standing to the side, took a cigar from his mouth and said quietly, “I will.”
When the assault finally came, Shaw was one of the first to leap onto the fort’s parapet. His men reported seeing him wave his sword and yell, “forward, fifty-fourth” before he was shot in the heart.
His men fought for nearly an hour but couldn’t secure the fort. After the battle, a Confederate officer who was in the fort said the 54th fought gallantly and were led by “as brave a Colonel as ever lived,” according to the Globe report.
The bronze monument honoring the regiment was created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who spent some of his youth in Boston. It took Saint-Gaudens 14 years to create the monument, which depicts Shaw leading the men down Beacon Street in May 1863 before they headed South to fight. It was unveiled in May 1897.
In its 118 years, the monument has been targeted by vandals on many occasions.
This was not the first time, however, that this memorial had been targeted. Just last year the sword was removed from the Memorial.
In 2012, the memorial was again vandalized with yellow paint by a Quincy women.
Jewish Cemeteries/Memorials and Anti-Semitism
Vandalisms towards Jewish people are also apparent in Massachusetts. In July 2014, 19 headstones with two bring cracked, were toppled at Worcester Hebrew Cemetery in Auburn, MA, which had not been the first time the cemetery had been targeted:
Police in Auburn are investigating after vandals toppled 19 headstones at a central Massachusetts Jewish cemetery.
Chief Andrew Sluckis estimated the cost of the damage at the Worcester Hebrew Cemetery discovered earlier this week at $15,000.
Of the 19 headstones knocked over, two were cracked in half.
Sluckis says some evidence has been recovered at the scene.
Jordan Robbins, co-chairman of running the cemetery for the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, tells The Telegram & Gazette that the federation is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
The cemetery was also vandalized around the Memorial Day weekend, when eight headstones were knocked over.
Additionally, pieces of pig meat had been dumped this year at Pride Cemetery in Lynn, MA at a Holocaust Memorial. Natasha Soolkin of Swampscott, who made the discovery, said of the act:
“The most horrible thing for me is that they thought about it. They went to the store and bought this piece of meat. They knew what the most painful thing could be,” says Natasha Soolkin of Swampscott.
Soolkin says she became physically ill when she realized what someone had left behind.
“They wanted to cause pain and they did,” says Soolkin.
Pork is an offensive symbol in the Jewish faith. Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore, calls it a hate crime.
What is Vandalism? Vandalism can defined as:
Vandalism is the willful destruction or damaging of property in a manner that defaces, mars, or otherwise adds a physical blemish that diminishes the property’s value. For example, if you put bumper stickers on a person’s car, or spray-paint your name on someone’s fence, this is vandalism. Vandalism can also cover such offenses as:
- carving your initials into public park trees or public benches, or writing your name on a store window with a marker
- “keying” a car or puncturing its tires
- breaking a building’s windows, and
- knocking over grave markers.
While vandalism involves damaging property, it is not always the same as the crime of “destruction of property” or “damage to property.” These crimes can cover more serious physical damage, though some states use these categories to also cover acts of vandalism. In other words, what is vandalism in one state may be destruction of property in another.
Vandalism, like other crimes, have elements:
Vandalism, like every crime, is made up of different parts, known as elements. To be convicted of vandalism, the prosecutor must prove that you have committed each of these elements. Let’s look at the different elements of vandalism.
- Physical damage. Vandalism covers such acts as graffiti, “tagging,” carving, etching, and other forms of damage that, though often permanent, are not so serious that they destroy the property or prevent it from functioning properly. Placing stickers, posters, signs, or other markers on property can also constitute physical damage.
- Owned by someone else. The property you damage must be owned or possessed by someone else, and you must damage it against the owner’s wishes. You cannot, for example, commit vandalism by covering your own fence in graffiti or by adding bumper stickers to a car after receiving permission from the owner.
- Intentionally. You cannot accidentally commit vandalism. For example, if you’re painting your house and accidentally spill some paint on your neighbor’s fence, you have not vandalized the property. (However, you’d still be legally obligated to pay for repairs to the fence.) To commit the crime of vandalism, you must damage the property on purpose.
My Thoughts on Vandalism
Vandalism is not the appropriate way to express one’s political beliefs, as it carries the negative message that destruction of property (personal or public) is something OK to do. It is not. It creates tension in the communities that may be otherwise intended to reach, and damages the message as well. I do not espouse to support destruction of property, even if I disagree with the historical knowledge pertaining to the individual(s) the property speaks of, such as early American figures, like Christopher Columbus, or the 54th Infantry Regiment.
If you want your message heard, sitting down and talking is perfectly acceptable, but don’t expect that the message may be liked, agreed with, etc. You are free to speak your message, but not free on how other people feel or think about this message.