A statue of Thomas Jefferson that formerly stood outside a Portland, Oregon, high school bearing his name was toppled Sunday.
Before pulling down the statue, demonstrators scrawled “slave owner” and “George Floyd” on its base, along with “846” — a reminder of the time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck before the unarmed black man’s May 25 death.
A placard with a peace sign was raised in place of the Jefferson statue.
A group called PDX Resistance posted a video of the statue being toppled on Twitter, as did a local reporter.
Tough time for slave owners ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/m0lUWuYqVc
— PDX Resistance ✊ (@Pdx_resistance) June 15, 2020
— Bonnie Silkman KPTV (@BonnieSilkman) June 15, 2020
In its reporting about a protest march that began at the school, The Oregonian said protesters cheered an organizer who said, “There’s an interesting piece of history up here … Mr. Thomas is all beside himself.”
“We’re taking this city back. One school at a time. One racist statue at a time,” the organizer said.
The action provoked very different reactions.
“Honestly, I’m just very emotionally charged right now,” said Tope Sosanya, according to KPTV-TV. “We’re addressing white supremacy finally, and it’s just something we grew up with. And it’s been so normalized that people on our money would — which is supposed to be good to have — would have owned me.”
James Dean, the head custodian of Portland Public Schools, saw the destruction differently.
“It’s part of my building. I don’t like to see my building defaced,” said Dean, who is black.
The state was hauled away Monday by school workers, according to KOIN-TV.
Portland schools have yet to announce what will happen now to the statue.
Ronnie Manus, a black 1969 graduate of the school, had mixed feelings about the incident.
“It was bittersweet actually, being an African-American, knowing the reason it came down but being a proud Jefferson graduate. I hate to see it go, but believe it has its purpose for leaving,” he said.
Another activist said there are larger issues than statues to focus upon.
“Some of the racism that has occurred over the years, the boundary changes, the bond measure … Jefferson is the second oldest school and not had a bond passed to work on the old decrepit school — that’s the racism involved in that is what I want to talk about,” Tony Hopson said.
On Saturday, protesters toppled two statues at the University of Oregon, according to The Oregonian. The statutes were known as the Pioneer and the Pioneer Mother. The college’s Black Student Collective had called for the statues to be removed.
The university said the statues’ future should be ascertained “through an inclusive and deliberative process, not a unilateral act of destruction.”
“These are obviously turbulent times. While we support peaceful protest and vigorous expression of ideas, we do not condone acts of vandalism,” the school said in a statement. “Our country, state and campus are coming to terms with historic and pervasive racism that we must address, but it is unfortunate that someone chose to deface and tear down these statues.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.