ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Police are investigating damage done to a statue of Frederick Douglass in Maplewood Park. It happened over the weekend, and police say that the statue was torn off its base, and left about 50 feet from its pedestal. The statue had been placed over the fence to Genesee River gorge and was leaning against the fence.
Police say in addition to the damage at the bottom of the statue, one of the fingers on the left hand of the statue was damaged. Aside from that damage, there was no graffiti on the statue or in the surrounding park. The statue has been removed for repairs.
The incident happened on the same weekend that some local and national organizations have marked the 168th anniversary the speech the famed abolitionist delivered on July 5, 1882, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” which asks all Americans to consider the country’s long history of denying equal rights to Black people.
That speech was delivered at Corinthian Hall in Rochester. Douglass had lived in the city for a number of years and is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Among the local events this weekend was one on Saturday organized by the ROC Freedom Riders, a group of cyclists honoring the struggle for Black Americans’ freedom. Their event included a stop where Douglass had delivered his speech about the July 4 holiday.
The statue that was damaged this weekend is one of 13 Douglass statues that were placed around Rochester in 2018 in honor of his 200th birthday.
In that first year, two St. John Fisher students were charged with damaging one of the other statues, at Tracy and Alexander Streets.
The Maplewood Park location’s significance is tied to Kelsey’s Landing at that site, a departure point for slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the Douglass statue vandalism on Twitter:
Rochester Police have not yet identified any suspects in their criminal mischief investigation, and WXXI News is not aware of any individuals or groups claiming responsibility so far.