A monument honoring the first northern all-volunteer black regiment of the Union Army during the Civil War was damaged by rioters over the weekend.
The Shaw Memorial depicts the 54th Massachusetts Regiment led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw and stands at the edge of the Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts.
“This monument is considered one of the nation’s greatest pieces of public art and the greatest piece to come out of the Civil War,” Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, told WBUR-FM.
“It was, amazingly enough, dedicated 123 years ao on May 31st — the day it was defaced.”
On Sunday, a peaceful protest turned violent and destructive and the plywood that had been put in place to protect the statue during restoration was covered in obscene graffiti.
The granite backside of the monument also was painted with swear words and phrases including, “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace” and “Police are Pigs.”
The $3 million restoration project had been granted clearance last week.
This was not the first time the memorial has been vandalized. It was covered in paint in 2012 and Shaw’s sword was broken off in 2015 and 2017, according to WCVB-TV.
Vizza was surprised that a sculpture celebrating men of color was singled out by rioters.
“A thousand men signed up just after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, just think about that,” she said.
“These are men who, if they were captured in the south, would be enslaved or murdered. But this cause was so important to them, they signed up to go fight for their freedom.”
The story of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment was also depicted in the 1989 film “Glory.”
“They did fight in a major battle at Fort Wagner,” Vizza said. “And many of them were killed, including Shaw.”
Fifteen other memorials were damaged in Boston including the 9/11 Memorial in the Public Garden and the statue of Abigail Adams on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, WBUR reported.
Vizza said the Friends of the Public Garden and the City of Boston rallied quickly to clean up all of the graffiti and damage.
“What is so hard to see is that there was a legitimate protest, and the Boston Common is the center stage of civic life in our city,” she said.