Protesters have defaced a statue of Philadelphia abolitionist Matthias Baldwin, dousing it with paint and spray-painting the word “colonizer” on the pedestal.
It was not immediately clear if the protesters were part of an organized group such as Antifa. The graffiti has since been cleaned off the statue, as Joe Walsh, a member of the Friends of Matthias Baldwin Park, told National Review in an email. The statue itself stands outside Philadelphia City Hall.
Ok, so why was the statue of Matthias Baldwin defaced like this? He was an abolitionist who funded schools for black children out of pocket. No genocide there. pic.twitter.com/ACqq1iSS16
— Eric Ernerstedt (@ericernerstedt) June 11, 2020
The statue was vandalized at some point during the days of demonstrations that occurred in Philadelphia, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said in an email.
Born in 1795, Baldwin moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey at the age of 16 and rose from an apprenticeship at a local jeweler to establish a successful business manufacturing train locomotives. Baldwin argued for the right of African Americans to vote in Pennsylvania during the state’s 1837 Constitutional Convention, and helped establish a school for African American children where he paid teachers’ salaries for years.
“He hired blacks in his shops when that was not the norm,” Walsh said. “He was BLM [Black Lives Matter] before there was a slogan.”
Protesters also defaced Philadelphia’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors monument with graffiti reading “BLM.” That monument’s inscription reads, “All who have labored today in behalf of the Union have wrought for the best interests of the country and the world not only for the present but for all future ages.”
“The irony of vandalizing a monument to those who died to end slavery is lost on the morons who don’t know their history,” Walsh said.
Protests and demonstrations have appeared across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. Some demonstrations have led to riots and looting, and protesters have also defaced or toppled various monuments to historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and southern secessionist leader Jefferson Davis.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Baldwin statue was defaced on Wednesday, June 10, when in fact the vandalism occurred some days beforehand. The exact date on which the vandalism took place is unknown.