Memorials in three of the city’s major parks were hit with graffiti and vandalism Sunday night after tensions mounted between demonstrators and police following a day of mostly peaceful protest marches that wound through Boston.
According to the Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit that advocates for Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, monuments and sculptures in all three public parks were defaced during a night of violence that lasted into the early morning hours Monday.
Liz Vizza, the group’s executive director, said 11 sites were damaged — four on Boston Common, six in the Public Garden, and one along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
One of the memorials targeted by vandals was the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial, which was unveiled 123 years ago Sunday and depicts a pioneering group of Black soldiers marching into battle during the Civil War.
"Peaceful protest on #BostonCommon demanding racial justice. Hard to see legitimate protest turn destructive,” the Friends of the Public Garden said Monday on Twitter, after the sun came up and revealed the extent of the damage.
The tweet included a picture of the back of the monument to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which sits directly across from the State House and is undergoing major renovations. It was tagged with expletives and anti-police sentiment as well as the words “RIP George Floyd," the Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, which sparked protests across the country.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh called out the graffiti on “some of our most cherished public spaces” during a press conference Monday. He mentioned the monument to Shaw and the 54th Regiment specifically.
“That memorial is sacred to Black Boston and to our country,” Walsh said. “This was the very last thing that our city, quite honestly, needed.”
Officials from the Friends of the Public Garden said conservators on Monday were cleaning up the messes.
Graffiti was found at the base of the George Washington statue and on the 9/11 memorial in the Public Garden, as well as on the towering Soldiers and Sailors Monument atop a hill on Boston Common, according to the group.
Vizza said that a lot of people “floated in to help” with cleanup efforts in the parks as it became apparent just how widespread the damage was.
In one case, a group purchased cleaning supplies at a Home Depot and started to scrub graffiti off of the base of the Washington statue, according to a Globe reporter on the scene.
Vizza said she was moved that people wanted to contribute, but that fixing monuments is best left to professionals, because using the wrong types of supplies and equipment could further damage the artwork.
“You have to be very careful removing graffiti,” she said. “You need to leave it to the pros.”
Those looking to pitch in were directed toward picking up garbage and other debris strewn throughout the parks, she said.
Vizza said that while seeing many of the monuments damaged was difficult, “it was so heartening for us to see the Common play the vital role it has played for generations as a center stage of civic life" during Sunday’s peaceful daytime protests.
“It’s a place where we come to peacefully express our views and protest issues that we feel are unjust,” she said. “To see what remains is an ugly underbelly, but not the heart of the protests.”