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Vandals hit pioneer monument, tear down George Washington statue in Minneapolis

George Washington statue in Washburn Fair Oaks Park, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board/Released)
November 30, 2020

Minneapolis Park Police are investigating after vandals toppled a statue of George Washington and defaced a pioneer monument with anti-colonialist graffiti early Thanksgiving morning.

A statue of Washington, the Revolutionary War general and first American president, was torn from its base in Washburn Fair Oaks Park across from the Minneapolis Institute of Art and splashed with paint.

Several miles away, in northeast Minneapolis’ BF Nelson Park, unknown suspects targeted the large granite “Pioneers Statue,” spraypainting the words “no thanks,” “no more genocide,” “decolonize” and “land back.”

The monument depicts three generations of a pioneer family, whose men are holding a rifle, ax and plow. A woman and her newborn stand at their side. On the back of the statue’s base, an engraving shows an American Indian handing a peace pipe to Father Hennepin.

The Pillsbury family reportedly gifted the sculpture to the city during the Great Depression.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was aware of complaints about the content and subject matter of the statue, a spokeswoman said.

“The MPRB is working together with the community to address and respond using a racial equity lens to determine next steps,” Robin Smothers said in a statement. “This spring, a sign was placed near the statue stating this information and inviting people to share their thoughts or be part of framing new directions.”

Park maintenance crews have been notified about the vandalism and are expected to address the issue “as soon as possible,” Smothers said. No one has been arrested.

The destruction comes six months after protesters pulled down a Christopher Columbus statue outside the State Capitol this summer.

Columbus, a 15th-century Genoese explorer, has long been a target of activists for his role in colonizing, killing and exploiting Indigenous people. The monument’s expulsion at the Capitol marked the first of many statues on public grounds felled by protesters in the nationwide reckoning over institutional racism that followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

Michael A. Forcia, a prominent American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, was charged with felony destruction of property in the June 10 incident.

Gov. Tim Walz decided not to restore it.


(c) 2020 the Star Tribune

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