Someone has doused a controversial monument in Bolton Hill with a large amount of bright red paint, carrying on a trend of protest against Baltimore’s four Confederate memorials stemming from Saturday’s violent unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
The statue depicts an angelic figure, named Glory in an inscription below, who holds a dying soldier with a Confederate battle flag in his right hand. Inscribed in the base beneath the two figures are the words “Gloria Victis” – translation: “Glory to the Vanquished” — and a dedication that would appear sympathetic to the Confederacy’s cause: “To the Soldiers and Sailors of Maryland in the Service of the Confederate States of America 1861-1865.”
The monument rests in the median along the road off of Mosher Street. Its sculptor was F. Wellington Ruckstuhl. The artwork has sat there brazenly since 1903, according to a year-old report by a commission from Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration.
Now, it’s covered in a splotchy mess of crimson. Whoever carried out the deed did a messy but thorough job, hitting both Glory and the Confederate soldier, as well as a large chunk of the marble base. A “contextualizing” sign, added there by recommendation from Rawlings-Blake’s commission, is also dotted with red.
A Baltimore Police Department spokesman said authorities hadn’t received any reports of vandalism in that area of Bolton Hill. Director of Media Relations T.J. Smith added that someone had discovered a “red substance” on the statue, but said the department had no additional information.
The monument is one of four under heavy scrutiny following this past weekend’s deadly violence in Charlottesville. On Saturday, hundreds of white nationalists gathered there to protest the proposed removal of a statue paying homage to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. When counter-protesters showed up, the white supremacists began throwing torches and clashing with their opponents in the street. The tension escalated to a deadly point when a 20-year-old man drove his car straight into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Baltimore leaders reacted quickly. Councilman Brandon Scott announced he’d drafted a resolution to tear down and destroy all Confederate monuments in Baltimore.
The next evening, hundreds rallied at Baltimore’s Lee-Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell and called for the removal of the city’s four such statues. The crowd marched through Charles Village and back to the grassy, tree-shaded knoll to continue protesting and, later, to erect Pablo Machioli’s “Mother Light” statue — depicting a pregnant black woman with her fist raised and a child on her back – directly in front of the Confederate memorial.
Mayor Catherine Pugh on Monday morning outlined a plan to continue pursuing removals of the statues. Pugh said in a statement that she had reached out to contractors who could tear them down, and to private entitites who could help pay for the costly task. The issue was left to Pugh after Rawlings-Blake left office in December without having removed two of the four statues, as her commission recommended.
In Annapolis, legislative leaders today called for the removal of a bust of pro-slavery Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in the State House. And here in Baltimore, former NAACP president and current gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous proposed melting down Baltimore’s own statue of Taney in Mount Vernon and using the metal to create a new bust of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The newest incident involving the red paint isn’t the first case of vandalism for the Sailors and Soldiers monument. Two years ago, after Dylann Roof shot nine black churchgoers dead in a racially charged attack in South Carolina, someone spraypainted “Black Lives Matter” across the monument in yellow.
If the paint is any sign, activists are out for blood from Baltimore’s Confederate memorials.