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Mayor Walsh calls vandalism at city monuments an ‘act of cowardice’

“It really is an act of cowardice,” Mayor Martin Walsh said. “Vandalizing World War II memorials, vandalizing police memorials, vandalizing even in Fall River with the cemetery, there’s just no other way to describe it other than cowardice.”
“It really is an act of cowardice,” Mayor Martin Walsh said. “Vandalizing World War II memorials, vandalizing police memorials, vandalizing even in Fall River with the cemetery, there’s just no other way to describe it other than cowardice.”Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday strongly condemned the recent spate of vandalism of city monuments for war veterans and slain police officers, declaring that the crimes won’t go unpunished.

“It really is an act of cowardice,” Walsh said. “Vandalizing World War II memorials, vandalizing police memorials, vandalizing even in Fall River with the cemetery, there’s just no other way to describe it other than cowardice. Desecrating those memorials — those memorials stand for something.”

Walsh spoke to reporters after an event at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.

His comments came after Boston police Tuesday responded to Mount Hope Cemetery in Mattapan, where several memorials to fallen officers, military veterans, and the Knights of Columbus and Free Masons had been desecrated.

At the cemetery Wednesday, Patrick J. Travers used a scrub brush to clean part of a veterans memorial monument. Looking at the oil-stained granite, he said he didn’t understand how someone could do such a thing.

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“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It bothers me . . . these are people we’re supposed to be honoring.”

Travers owns Clean & Safe Inc., a Norwood company that sells cleaning products.

He was testing his products on portions of the granite monument with the blessing of cemetery officials.

“It seems to be lifting the oil, which is great,” Travers said, adding that he’d have to wait for the test area to dry out more to see whether it was making a difference.

Travers said he’s not sure what kind of oil was splashed on the monuments. When he smelled it, it seemed odorless. But it was definitely an oily substance.

As Travers worked on the memorial, Roslindale resident Kim Johnson stopped by to view the damage.

Johnson said she’s been coming to this cemetery for decades and has family buried there. She wanted to make sure their gravestones were still intact and also wanted to assess the damage to the veterans memorial.

“It’s a disgrace,” she said. “It really is.”

This veterans memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery dates back to 1954. The Globe reported that it was erected in the military section of the cemetery to honor those who died in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

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It’s not the only veterans memorial to sustain damage this week.

On Monday, authorities discovered that the World War II Memorial near Castle Island had been vandalized with some type of oil.

Officials at DCR said Wednesday that the agency is reviewing options to remove the substance from the Castle Island memorial, and that there’s currently no cost estimate for the work.

The day before the Castle Island vandalism, Fall River authorities found that approximately 25 gravestones at the Hebrew Cemetery on McMahon Street were defaced with anti-Semitic phrases and drawings of swastikas.

Speaking Wednesday, Walsh said the “people whose names are on those memorials represented something; they fought for our country, they protected us, and to have somebody go in at night is just cowardice. It’s at the center of investigation and we’ll find out who did it, and we’ll take appropriate action.”

The mayor added that there’s “a lot of questions out there, like ‘are we going to put cameras out there,’ but it’s just that we shouldn’t have to put a camera out there on a memorial. Everyone should walk by the memorial. If you don’t like it, walk by it.”

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross had also voiced outrage in comments Tuesday.

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“How incredibly distasteful and disheartening it is to learn about the damage done to the memorials at the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Mattapan,” Gross said in a statement. “Clearly, these memorials are meant to honor and show great respect to those, whether they be veterans or police officers, who spent a lifetime in dedicated service to our city and nation.”

Gross continued, “I find it beyond reprehensible and wrong that anyone would think it OK to damage and desecrate such hallowed grounds. Clearly, we hope to quickly identify and hold accountable the person responsible for these misguided and hateful actions.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.