Portland removes toppled presidential statues from Park Blocks
City crews hauled away two toppled statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt on Monday, Oct. 12 — after the public artwork was brought down with chains and power tools by protesters on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 11.
The sculptures are now being stored in a secure, undisclosed location by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the nonprofit tasked with overseeing the city's public art collection.
Heather Nelson Kent, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the two installations were largely undamaged.
"As far as damage to the actual, physical statues, I don't think there's much," she said in a phone interview. "These items are very sturdy."
Both statues had stood in the South Park Blocks since 1920s, according to the Bureau of Parks & Recreation. For now, they will gather dust; no decision has been made regarding their fate.
"There will be a time for a discussion about public art, but the city just isn't able to dedicate the time and resources to that right now," said Nelson Kent. "There's not a lot of urgency — they're not going anywhere."
Over the last 120 days of unrest, protesters have also toppled a statue of George Washington on Sandy Boulevard and the statue of President Thomas Jefferson at the high school that bears his name. An elk statue and fountain near the Justice Center was removed by the city, and conservative groups later snatched the replacement statue built by demonstrators.
The Sunday evening protest was dubbed an "Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage." According to Mayor Ted Wheeler, the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Indigenous People's Day since 2015, though the federal government still recognizes it as Columbus Day.
Portland Police Bureau officers declared a riot on Sunday and arrested three people on various charges, including unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful use of pepper spray and first-degree criminal mischief. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced charges against two of the arrestees. Citing figures from the city, he estimated damage to the Roosevelt statue as costing about $20,000 to repair and $10,000 for repairs to the Lincoln statue.
"It is sickening to me to see the destruction that occurred in Portland overnight," Schmidt said. "The vandalism that occurred overnight has no place in our community. This violence and property destruction is without purpose and justification."
Even mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone came to the defence of the historical society, which devoted its latest quarterly magazine to the history of white supremacy in Oregon.
Despite the rain, around 300 people attended the protest. Few images and videos emerged from the event after organizers preemptively declared that live-streaming and cameras were not welcome.
Police did not arrive at the protest for more than hour, saying later that Central Precinct officers were tied up with a shooting at Powell Park where the suspect fled the scene. No one was harmed in the shooting, and an alleged 18-year-old gunman was eventually taken into custody.
In the meantime, the windows and glass doors to the Oregon Historical Society were smashed out, as some tossed lit flares inside and grabbed an Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt made by 15 Black women, according to Kerry Tymchuk, the museum's executive director, KGW reported. The quilt was recovered in a puddle by police later that night with minor damage.
Portland police declared a riot around 9:30 p.m. and officers moved in to disperse the crowd.
Windows at other businesses and nearby Portland State University's campus public safety office also were shattered by rioters. Damage was also reported at a locally owned jewelers, several chain sandwich shops and other businesses.
The first warning from authorities came an hour earlier, around 8:30 p.m., when police tweeted that a "mass gathering" had formed in the park blocks near Southwest Park Avenue and Madison Street. "Some are trying to pull down a statue with a chain," said police via Twitter. Authorities went on to issue a public warning that anyone involved in criminal behavior would be subject to arrest.
Early Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted multiple times about the overnight damage in Portland.
"Put these animals in jail, now. The Radical Left only knows how to take advantage of very dumb 'leadership' fools," he said in one tweet. "This is Biden! Law & Order!"
The Radical Left fools in Portland donâ€™t want any help from real Law Enforcement which we will provide instantaneously. Vote! https://t.co/WHvhZpyqAG— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2020
PSU police didn't face any setbacks despite the vandalism, the university said in a statement.
"Portland State University's Campus Public Safety Office was targeted by protesters Sunday night who shattered windows and damaged the front door of the office. No one was hurt, and the damage was cleaned up Monday," Christina Dyrness Williams, director of media and public relations for PSU, confirmed Monday morning.
Reporter Courtney Vaughn and KOIN 6 News contributed to this story. You can read KOIN's story here.
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