A monument commemorating “Star-Spangled Banner” author Francis Scott Key was vandalized in downtown Baltimore, officials said Wednesday.
Photographs show the monument, at 1200 N. Eutaw St., covered with red paint and the words “racist anthem” written in black.
Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D), said police were investigating and determining the best way to remove the graffiti.
“The mayor thinks it’s very unfortunate that this took place,” he said. “Certainly we respect people’s right to express an opinion, but there certainly has to be a better and more productive way to express yourself than criminal activity and vandalism.”
At a news conference, police spokesman T.J. Smith said anyone with information about who vandalized the monument should contact police.
Pugh removed four Confederate monuments from downtown Baltimore after a man ran down counterprotesters at a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville last month, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring many others. The overnight removals shined a light on the city’s other statues, including a statue of Christopher Columbus that was vandalized after the attack.
Key, a Maryland native who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” after the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, died in 1843 — almost two decades before the Civil War began — and was not a Confederate. However, he did own slaves and opposed the abolition of slavery.
“I’m very torn about Key,” Karsonya Wise Whitehead, a former Baltimore public school teacher, told the Baltimore Sun in 2014. “Risking his life to defend black people was not something that he had to do. It was something that he chose to do. So was his decision to own slaves. His contradictions were America’s contradictions.”
McCarthy said there were no plans to remove the Key statue.
“Those conversations may take place in the future, but they’re certainly not part of any conversations taking place in the city of Baltimore right now,” he said.