Someone spray-painted the word “SHAME” in big yellow letters on the base of a Confederate monument in Norfolk, Virginia, making the city the latest to confront rising tensions over the preservation of such structures in public spaces.
Norfolk police are in the “preliminary stages of investigation” after officers responded to a vandalism report about 8:45 a.m. on Monday, department spokesman Daniel Hudson told HuffPost.
City workers removed the graffiti in less than two hours, Lori Crouch, the city’s corporate communications director, said.
The monument, which features a 15-foot bronze Confederate soldier perched atop a granite base, “commemorates the last reunion of surviving Confederate soldiers,” according to the Downtown Norfolk Council’s website. It was unveiled in 1907.
Many see such monuments as symbols of white supremacism and the slavery system that the South fought to maintain. The push to rid public spaces of Confederate iconography gained momentum after the June 2015 massacre at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black parishioners.
South Carolina, after many years of balking, passed legislation to remove Confederate flags from its state house grounds shortly after the shooting.
New Orleans, Louisiana, began the process of tearing down four Confederate monuments last month after the city council voted for their removal. Some residents have protested against the statues’ removal ― even sending death threats to contractors hired to remove the monuments.
The Norfolk City Council, which included three black members at the time, decided against removing the downtown Confederate monument in September 2015. The black members agreed that removing the structure was unneccessary, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Crouch said she wasn’t aware of any formal requests recently to have the city’s three Confederate statues taken down.
Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Joe Dillard, president of the NAACP’s Norfolk Chapter, speculated the vandalism could have been inspired by news coverage of a contentious battle in Charlottesville, Virginia, over its city council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
While Dillard said he believes the spray-painter in Norfolk was likely someone “disgusted and fed up with these monuments of hate,” he said his organization doesn’t condone the vandalism.
“There are better ways to accomplish having these symbols of hate removed,” Dillard told The Virginian-Pilot.