A worker Monday cleaned off graffiti from the iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture. (Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace)

 

The word "Kony," referring to a Ugandan guerrilla/war criminal, was spray-painted on the "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

By midday Monday the Walker's crew had cleaned the graffiti off the scupture, but the incident is still being investigated.

Walker Art Center, which owns the sculpture and trains 24-hour surveillance cameras on the sculpture garden, observed people entering the garden about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Security staff immediately notified Minneapolis police, who arrived within 10 minutes.

"The police met a couple people leaving" the garden, said Walker spokesperson Ryan French. However, the Walker didn't realize that the sculpture had been vandalized until dawn on Saturday when the word "Kony,' sprayed with black paint, was visible in the bowl of the spoon, which spans a small pond. 

"Kony" refers to Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group accused of abducting children and forcing them to become sex slaves and child soldiers. He has been indicted for war crimes but remains at large. A film about his activities, "Invisible Children," became a YouTube sensation this spring. This weekend a grassroots group, also operating under the name Invisible Children, staged events around the country to call attention to Kony's alleged crimes.

The Walker had not received any Kony-related protest information prior to the vandalism, French said.

"Nothing was delivered to us and we don't know if this was linked to that or not," French said. "It could just be someone who was riding along with the activities elewhere in the city. We're leaving it up to the police to discover." 

Sgt Bill Palmer, Minneapolis police spokesman, had no comment on the investigation Monday.

The vandalism shocked Kony protester Gawolo Kpissay, a Liberian-born Minneapolis artist who helped distribute anti-Kony fliers in Uptown from Friday night through early Saturday morning.

“I think that it’s super-disrespectful to deface someone’s art,” Kpissay said.

French said the Walker had confidence in its security system but was evaluating enhancement options.

"We think we have a good system with the Minneapolis Park Police and the Minneapolis Police department, but  we're certainly looking into whether there are other things we could do to make things safer for the artworks.

"As an institution, and speaking personally, I'm shocked that people would deface such a beloved object in the Twin Cities and the sculpture garden," French said. "There were people out there Saturday in the rain and they weren't happy either. Fortunately, we have a great crew and are really happy that it's cleaning up so well."

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