A statue of George Washington that has surveyed the five corners at Northeast Sandy Boulevard at 57th Avenue since the 1920s is no more.
Using ropes, around 100 protesters yanked down the sculpture sometime before midnight on Thursday, June 18, according to videos posted on social media. Flags set atop the statue were burned as well.
The next morning, a crowd of onlookers had gathered to snap photos of Washington's bronze figure which, along with a pedestal, were now covered in graffiti reading "white fragility" and "you're on native land."
They did it, they really did it. Sucks to be George Washington right now... #Portlandprotest #statue #blacklivesmatter #PDXprotests #pdx #oregon #blm #acab #pdx #georgewashington #flagburning #StatuesMustFall pic.twitter.com/uwbTFoLUuq— Garrison Davis (Teargas Glutton) (@hungrybowtie) June 19, 2020
A spokeswoman for the Regional Arts & Culture Council — the nonprofit tasked with maintaining local public art — said a city boom truck would remove the statue by end of day Friday, June 19, for storage. No final decision about reinstallation has been made.
"We know there are problematic statues and other pieces of art in the city's collection," said the spokeswoman, Heather Nelson Kent. "Some of these pieces really harm people."
Nelson Kent said RACC already has spent tens of thousands of dollars on remediation of vandalism to public art, mostly focusing on graffiti that is violent or profane. She said the downtown statues located near the Justice Center — including the Elk, Spanish-American War Soldiers Monument, and Pioneer Family installations — have taken the brunt of the damage. The statue of Oregonian publisher Harvey Scott on Mt. Tabor has survived relatively unscathed, but has been identified as "problematic."
"We really want to have a conversation about how to address the issues that those pieces of art raise," Nelson Kent said. "Do we remove things? We've removed things. We've moved things. We can take things out of the collection. We can reinterpret things."
A statue of explorer William Clark and his slave, York, were voluntarily removed by the University of Portland earlier in the week after the figures were repeatedly vandalized. Last Sunday, the statue of Thomas Jefferson outside Jefferson High School was also toppled by protesters using crowbars.
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