The 10-foot-tall bronze sculpture of George Floyd stood prominently in New York City’s Union Square for just two days before a vandal splattered grayish-blue paint down the bust on Sunday morning, police confirmed.
Chris Carnabuci, the artist, said the latest malicious act, while upsetting and disappointing, “didn’t come as a complete surprise.”
“Vandalism of any sort is not an action that is productive or meaningful,” Carnabuci said in a statement Sunday. “Actions like this remind us that we have a long way to go, and we will never stop fighting.”
George Floyd bust in Union Square splattered with paint this morning, it just went up earlier this week, John Lewis and Breonna Taylor statues nor damaged, police are en route to dust for fingerprints, according to Confront Art rep on site. pic.twitter.com/5PBRWBQTBc— Gwynne Hogan (@GwynneFitz) October 3, 2021
Security footage shared with The Washington Post from the New York Police Department shows a man holding a skateboard and loitering behind the statue on Sunday. At about 10:15 a.m., he is seen mixing paint behind the bust, getting on his skateboard and throwing it onto the structure as he skates away.
The NYPD’s hate-crime task force is investigating the case. Investigators have not yet identified the man, whom police describe as light-complexioned with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a black hat, neon green T-shirt, dark green jacket and black shorts.
Several other Floyd murals and tributes have been vandalized since the 46-year-old Black man was killed in May 2020 by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, prompting nationwide protests. Murals in Rochester, Minn.; Minneapolis; Houston; and Portland, Ore., as well as several other cities, have been defaced. At Duke University in March, someone printed out the toxicology report from Floyd’s autopsy and posted it next to a mural on campus.
The Floyd sculpture is one of three works of art that make up the “SeeInJustice” exhibition — the other two are of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers last year, and the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a prominent civil rights leader who spent more than three decades in Congress. The Lewis and Taylor statues were not vandalized.
The showcase is produced by Confront Art, an organization founded last year that works with artists to create public art that brings awareness to social justice causes.
The Floyd statue was first displayed in Brooklyn on Juneteenth, a federal holiday on June 19 that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Now, all three sculptures are on display in Union Square from Oct. 1-30.
Immediately after witnessing Sunday’s defacing, bystanders jumped into action. By the time Confront Art co-founder Andrew Cohen arrived, he saw five people restoring the statue. One of the volunteers was a painter who knew which materials would work best.
“They went to the hardware [store] and bought supplies out of their own pockets,” Cohen told CNN. “This is inspiring teamwork and support from the community.”
Given the incident in Brooklyn months earlier, the Confront Art team knew there was a risk of a similar occurrence happening in Union Square but noted they are “not scared.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in Union Square: It’s exposed, but there are cameras and police everywhere,” Cohen told CNN in July.
Carnabuci, the artist, said the latest defacing is the reason having the exhibit on public display is so important.
“The fact that there is a diversity of opinion on George Floyd is probably the main reason for this exhibit,” he said in a statement. “SeeInJustice aims to inspire civil discourse — that we may have a place to discuss our differences and hear each other out.”