Community members, activists gather to condemn vandalization of Denmark Vesey statue

Source: Live 5
Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - African American activists say the vandalism of a monument honoring a freed Charleston slave and abolitionist is “disrespectful to the black community.”

Pastor and activist Thomas Dixon gathered with Black Lives Matter leaders and community members at the statue Monday morning to share their disappointment of the vandalism which happened over the weekend.

“This is done by people who have no soul, no moral compass, no ethics,” Dixon said. “This is totally disrespectful to the black community here in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Black Lives Matter Charleston organizer, Marcus McDonald, called the destruction of parts of the statue’s pedestal “a disgusting act of vandalism.”

“It’s supposed to intimidate us but we’re still out here and we’re going to keep pushing,” McDonald said.

Vesey was a former slave who won the lottery and bought his way out of slavery in Charleston. In 1822, he was accused and killed for planning a revolt by slaves in the area.

“There are those who have problems with Denmark Vesey but that’s your business,” Dixon said. “You handle your business while we handle our business. We believe that this man is a hero.”

Historian with the Charleston Public Library Nic Butler said while Vesey’s legacy is controversial, it’s important to confront that time in the city’s history.

“Still 200 years later Denmark Vesey has become a lightning rod for discussions about the legacy of slavery,” Butler said.

Butler said in a 2018 inventory, of the 110 commemorative monuments in Charleston, only 10 relate to the city’s African American history.

“This is just one of very few monuments within the city of Charleston and within South Carolina in general that’s memorializing a person of color, people that formed the majority of South Carolina’s population for most of our history,” Butler said.

Despite frustration over the vandalization, Dixon urges community members not to retaliate by vandalizing other statues, like the confederate monument on the Charleston battery.

“I’m here to ask my community that’s not what we do. That’s not what we do,” Dixon said. “That statue is not going to change the hearts of people just like tearing up this statue ain’t going to change our hearts.”

Charleston’s mayor John Tecklenburg, said the city will repair the damage.

“As with other recent acts of vandalism against our city’s monuments, we will repair this damage,” Tecklenburg said. “We will work to punish those who did it. And we will never allow this kind of cowardly misconduct to divide our city or distract our citizens from the real and meaningful progress that we are all making together.”

The Charleston Police Department is asking anyone with information to call 843-743-7200 and ask for the on duty central detective.

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