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Woman pleads not guilty to vandalizing Civil War monument

Rosemine Occean of Quincy was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court Wednesday on charges of property destruction after she allegedly threw paint on the sculpture.

Dominick Reuter/Boston Herald

Rosemine Occean of Quincy was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court Wednesday on charges of property destruction after she allegedly threw paint on the sculpture.

A Quincy woman described as mentally troubled threw paint on a historic Beacon Hill memorial Tuesday afternoon, also splattering a family visiting from Wisconsin, Boston police said.

Authorities said a park ranger witnessed the vandalism and that when police arrived, the woman was sitting nearby with yellow paint on her hands, face, and clothing.

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial at the edge of Boston Common was reportedly vandalized Tuesday afternoon.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial at the edge of Boston Common was reportedly vandalized Tuesday afternoon.

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Rosemine Occean, 38, told police that the monument honoring Robert Gould Shaw and the Union Army’s first black regiment to be assembled in the North during the Civil War “was an improper depiction of history,” according to a police report.

It remains unclear what Occean, who is black, may have meant by the alleged comment.

The flying paint also spattered on a Wisconsin couple and their three children, according to the police report.

Occean pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of malicious destruction of property over $250 and one count of vandalizing a historic monument.

At her arraignment at Boston Municipal Court, a court-appointed psychologist said Occean had a history of mental health issues and may have stopped taking antipsychotic and mood-stabilizing medications.

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Kerry Eudi, the psychologist, said Occean was diagnosed with a mood disorder in 1996 and has been hospitalized multiple times.

Eudi described the defendant as “pleasant” and “quite cooperative” during their conversation, but she said Occean also exhibited signs of paranoia.

Judge Mark Summerville ordered the defendant held on $3,000 bail.

Occean was admitted to an in-patient health facility and ordered to undergo a competency evaluation.

Occean’s attorney, Patrick J. Colvario, declined to comment after the arraignment. She is due back in court on Aug. 21.

Just blocks from the courthouse, the historic monument remained splattered with thick yellow paint.

Completed in 1897, the monument depicts the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the Union’s first all-black regiment from the North. The Massachusetts 54th cemented its place in history during the Battle of Fort Wagner, in which many soldiers — including Shaw, the regiment’s officer — died.

The regiment's valiant performance paved the way for wider black participation in the Union army.

The Beacon Hill memorial is the first stop on the city’s Black Heritage Trail, and as a group of international students began their tour Wednesday, Park Ranger Sentidra Joseph addressed the vandalism.

Despite the paint-thrower’s reported statement to police, the monument “does depict history wonderfully,” said Joseph, who was guiding the walking tour.

“This monument to me is one of the best Civil War monuments we have in this whole country,” Joseph said. “And the reason I say that is because it shows black men with dignity and pride.”

Officials initially commissioned architect Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design a memorial to Shaw, the 54th’s white officer, Joseph said. But in conversations with the architect, Shaw’s father asked that the regiment be depicted as well.

At the time, minstrel shows were common and many visual depictions of black Americans relied on, and thus perpetuated, racist stereotypes.

Saint-Gaudens, in contrast, modeled the soldiers on the monument after individual black people he sketched in New York, Joseph said.

The monument depicts Shaw on a horse, surrounded by members of the regiment.

It is one of the city’s best-known monuments, due in part to “For the Union Dead,” a poem inspired by the memorial and written by Robert Lowell.

“Two months after marching through Boston / half the regiment was dead,” Lowell wrote. “... Their monument sticks like a fishbone / in the city’s throat.”

Adam Sege can be reached at adam.sege@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSege.

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