Park officials in Nashville were greeted with a jarring sight Monday morning when they discovered that a century-old Confederate monument had been vandalized.
Blood-red liquid spattered the bronze figure of a Southern private, while letters scrawled across a list of hundreds of Civil War fighters declared, “They were racists.”
The vandalism was discovered Monday in Centennial Park, not far from Vanderbilt University. Police spokesman Don Aaron told The Washington Post that the incident was still under investigation and that authorities were reviewing surveillance video to identify a perpetrator.
Designed by Hungarian American sculptor George Julian Zolnay, who created other Confederate statues, including a monument to Jefferson Davis, the monument in Centennial Park was dedicated in 1909 in an extravagant ceremony. “Tears came into the eyes of Confederate veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy” as the “magnificent bronze monument to the Confederate private soldier” was unveiled, the Nashville American newspaper reported.
From its plinth, the bronze Confederate soldier watched the coming and going of the Jim Crow era, during which African Americans were barred from using the pool in Centennial Park.
The Centennial Park statue is not the first to be doused with red substances in the past week. Charleston, S.C., police announced Sunday that they had arrested two people accused of throwing paint on the Confederate Defenders of Charleston monument.
Other Confederate monuments have been vandalized with red paint and other graffiti as a cultural and political battle continues over whether to let such monuments stand or take them down. Last August, a Richmond monument was covered in a “red paint-like” substance. In April 2018, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doused a statue in red ink and blood; months later, it was toppled by protesters.
The monuments’ defacement comes as calls to remove Confederate symbols from public spaces have grown more urgent in recent years, particularly in the wake of a 2015 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston and the 2017 Charlottesville clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters left one woman dead. Critics of the statues argue that such monuments glorify the country’s history of slavery and racism. In 2017, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) decided to remove four such monuments from the city.