George Washington monument in Baltimore defaced with red paint

The Baltimore Sun reports the George Washington monument in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park was vandalized overnight with what appeared to be red paint and graffiti, with “Destroy Racists,” anti-police sentiment and a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement written at its base.

A police spokeswoman said the department has not received any complaints of vandalism at the northwest Baltimore park overnight.

The vandalism comes as massive protests decrying systemic racism and police’s treatment of minority communities have swept across the country, spurred by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, a black man who died last month after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Some groups have turned their attention statues memorializing Confederate leaders or former slave owners, such as the first president, asking for them to be removed from public squares.

In some instances, protesters have themselves toppled the monuments, such as in North Carolina, where two bronze statues of Confederate soldiers were pulled down at the state Capitol grounds. On Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered three Confederate monuments removed to protect public safety, he said in a statement.

In San Francisco, protesters brought down the statue of Francis Scott Key, a Maryland native who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a War of 1812 battle at Fort McHenry. His legacy has also come under scrutiny in recent years as he came from a wealthy slave-owning family and defended slavery as an attorney in the District of Columbia.

While more cities and states have begun to remove statues of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers, there’s still an ongoing debate as to how to handle monuments to slave holders and America’s early settlers, who held explicitly racist views of Black people and other minorities.

Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey is slated to introduce a bill this week that would rename the obelisk monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Herring Run Park as the Police Violence Victims Monument.

Dorsey has been working to rename the 228-year-old monument since 2017 when it was damaged. He conducted a survey of area residents at the time to gather input on how the monument could be renamed to better represent “current-day values.”

A video was posted to YouTube in 2017 showing a man striking the base of the monument with a sledgehammer. Another person held a sign that read: “Racism, tear it down.” Another sign taped to the monument read: “The future is racial and economic justice.”

The 44-foot obelisk is believed to be the first monument in the country to honor Columbus. It was erected in 1792 to honor the 300th anniversary of his journey from Europe. Baltimore also has a Columbus statue in its Little Italy neighborhood.