Rochester police said the statue, a reproduction made of a kind of plastic and finished to look like bronze, had been removed from its base and was found about 50 feet away on the banks of the Genesee River.
Police said the investigation into who is responsible is continuing. No arrests have been made, said Investigator Jacqueline Shuman, public information officer for the Rochester Police Department.
Carvin Eison, project director of Re-Energize the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Committee in Rochester, said the city will replace the monument quickly with another replica that was in storage. “I’ve always said if one goes down ten more go back up,” said Eison, who helped lead Rochester’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth.
The attack on the Douglass statue comes at a time when anti-racism protesters across the country are demanding the removal of monuments to slave traders, slave owners and Confederate generals and leaders.
On Friday, at the foot of Mount Rushmore, President Trump railed against protesters who pull down or vandalize Confederate statues. Trump signed an executive order aimed at punishing protesters who destroy monuments on federal property and another creating a national garden monument of American heroes, including Douglass and Tubman.
On Monday morning, he condemned the attack on the Douglass statue, attributing it to “anarchists.”
Cornell William Brooks, a former president of the NAACP, tweeted Monday that he believed the Douglass statue was torn down in retaliation for Confederate statutes that have been removed by protesters.
“#FrederickDouglass’ statue was ripped from the ground. Some may call this REVENGE—remove our #WhiteSupremacists and we remove your #Abolitionist. I call this DESECRATION. Listen to his words and know why his truth is admired and feared.”
On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered the keynote address at an Independence Day celebration in Rochester at Corinthian Hall, according to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In the fiery speech, Douglass asked: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?”
Douglass answered: “A day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”
Douglass lived in Rochester from 1847 to 1872, according to Rochester’s visitor center. In Rochester, Douglass published his newspapers, the North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper.
Douglass “hosted runaway slaves in his own home, gave speeches, supported women’s suffrage alongside suffragist Susan B. Anthony and much more before moving to Washington D.C. in 1872,” the city said. Douglass was buried in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery in 1895.
In 1899, a bronze statue of Douglass was erected in Rochester and stands more than 25 feet high at the intersection of Robinson Drive and South Avenue. Designed by Stanley Edwards, it was one of the first monuments erected in the country to celebrate an African American, Eison said.
In 2018, sculptor Olivia Kim created more than 12 replicas of the original that were placed throughout the city to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth. That same year, one of those replicas was vandalized.
On Monday, Eison called the latest attack on a Douglass replica “disheartening,” adding, “I can say no matter what they do, it can never diminish the values Frederick Douglass stood for and worked for.”
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