On Thursday morning, Pablo Machioli’s sculpture depicting a pregnant black woman with her fist raised, child on her back, stood proudly atop a marble base in the Wyman Park Dell. By the late afternoon, someone had knocked over and destroyed the sculpture; on a step nearby were the words, “Honor History,” painted in gold.
A spokesman for Baltimore police wrote in an email that someone spotted a white male in a blue shirt and khaki shorts push the sculpture down at around 2:40 p.m. The man then fled in a car. No other details were immediately available.
Activists on Wednesday had erected Machioli’s piece on top of the marble base, left vacant after Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration ordered crews to tear down a bronze monument depicting prominent Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson overnight on Tuesday. Pugh also orchestrated the removals of three other statues around the city paying homage to Confederate soldiers and families, as well as Civil War-era Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney.
Protesters had vehemently called upon the city to remove each of the four statues, arguing each commemorated protectors of the United States’ shameful, racist tradition of slavery. Hundreds gathered there in the park on Sunday night, where they watched a group carry “Madre Luz” (translation: “Mother Light”) up from a pickup truck bed and place it there in front of the monument.
Machioli, appearing alongside one of the activists who helped him construct the piece in 2015, told the crowd his sculpture “goes to everybody, everything. It’s from all of you.”
Local resident John Marra said he was driving home from work on Thursday afternoon when he stopped by the park. He’d already seen “Madre Luz” in place of the Lee-Jackson Monument on Wednesday.
“I was just driving by because I wanted to see it again, and saw that this had happened,” he told Baltimore Fishbowl.
He speculated that Wednesday’s downpours could have played a part in toppling the paper mache sculpture. However, “Madre Luz” had already been knocked down between Sunday night and Monday morning, when it was still on the ground rather than the pedestal, and had survived the fall.
Department of Public Works crews had removed a large amount of graffiti at the former site of the monument on Wednesday morning, painting over tags like “Black Lives Matter” and “Smash White Supremacy.” However, based on reports from our readers, they either didn’t paint over the tag reading “Honor History” on the step in front of the monument, or someone painted it after they left.
“Madre Luz” has suffered attacks before. As reported by City Paper in 2015, the sculpture was vandalized with the n-word across the woman’s pregnant belly, arms, legs and chest while being stored in the Copycat building. That incident similarly occurred at a time when local residents were fiercely divided over what to do with the city’s Confederate monuments.
Nearly two years later, the monuments have been removed following Saturday’s deadly clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville. Still, many have argued the monuments should have stayed up — be it for the purposes of reminding the public of the country’s past mistakes, or to pay respects to those who died in the Civil War.
Baltimore Police Maj. Rich Gibson, head of the Northern District, stood down on the sidewalk in front of the wrecked sculpture on Thursday afternoon. He declined to comment on the situation, except to say, “we take these things very seriously.”
This story has been updated to reflect that the words “Honor History” were painted on the step in front of the statue on Wednesday evening, before it was knocked over.