Maintenance crews from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spent Friday assessing damage after two statues in city parks were vandalized early Thanksgiving morning.
Vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in the Washburn Fair Oaks Park across from the Minneapolis Institute of Art and also splashed it with paint. A few miles away in northeast Minneapolis’ B.F. Nelson Park, someone spray-painted the words “no thanks,” “no more genocide,” “decolonize” and “land back” on the large granite monument to pioneers.
“We will start removing the paint as soon as we can,” said Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers.
Crews will also determine if they can turn the Washington statue upright; it was broken from its base, she said.
It was not immediately known if the destruction in Minneapolis was related to reports of buildings, statues and monuments that were defaced or destroyed Wednesday and Thursday in other U.S. cities.
In Chicago, somebody tried to pull down a statue of President William McKinley in McKinley Park. The sculpture was also tagged with graffiti and the words “Land Back.”
In Spokane, Wash., a statue of Abraham Lincoln was vandalized with red paint. In Portland, Ore., a monument in the city’s Lone Fir Cemetery, dedicated in 1903 to the veterans of the Civil War, Mexican, Spanish-American and Indian wars, was tagged with anti-colonialism graffiti and its statue toppled and sprayed with red paint. Three people were arrested after protest-related vandalism damaging storefronts and spraying the words “Land Back” on buildings, Portland police said in a news release.
The graffiti on the pioneers monument in Minneapolis appeared to be protesting colonialism. The monument depicts three generations of a pioneer family standing before sheaves of grain, signifying the agricultural product and flour industry that played a large part in creating the city. The Pillsbury family, founders of the famous Pillsbury flour brand, gifted the sculpture to the city during the Great Depression, Sommers said.
The front of the monument features men holding a rifle, ax and plow. A woman and her newborn stand at their side. On the back of the statue’s base, an engraving shows an American Indian handing a peace pipe to the Rev. Louis Hennepin, a Catholic missionary and explorer of North America.
Sommers said the Park Board had received complaints about the statue’s content and subject matter. This spring, the Park Board placed a sign near the statue acknowledging the complaints and invited people to share their thoughts.
“The Park Board is working together with the community to address and respond using a racial equity lens to determine next steps,” Sommers said.
No one has been arrested in connection with Thursday’s incidents, she said.
The destruction comes six months after protesters pulled down a Christopher Columbus statue outside the State Capitol.
The statue, erected in 1931, was commissioned by and paid for by a group called Italian-Americans of Minnesota at a time when Italian Americans faced widespread discrimination. Columbus was then seen as a symbol of the Italian people’s contributions to the country. But the 15th-century Italian explorer has long been a target of activists for his role in the colonization, killing and exploitation of Indigenous people.
Michael A. Forcia, a prominent American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, was charged with felony destruction of property in the June 10 incident.
Gov. Tim Walz decided not to return the statue to its spot on the Capitol grounds.
The Columbus monument was one of many statues on public grounds felled by protesters in the nationwide reckoning over institutional racism that followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center released in October found that 102 monuments and statues have been taken down or renamed since late May when Floyd’s death sparked national protests.