Friday, September 30, 2022

‘Slave owner’: James Monroe statue at William & Mary vandalized

The James Monroe statue on William & Mary's campus. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
The James Monroe statue on William & Mary’s campus. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

William & Mary Police are investigating after a statue of James Monroe was graffitied with the words “slave owner” late last month.

A crime log the school sent out Monday says a “non-student” was detained for writing on a statue at 1:36 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 outside Tucker Hall.

University spokeswoman Erin Zagursky said William & Mary Police have identified and spoken to a suspect, but no charges had been sought as of Monday afternoon.

The statue has since been cleaned, and the incident remains under investigation.

“Charges may still be brought,” Zagursky said, but added the university “likely won’t” issue a news release if a person is charged. 

“While we welcome and support open and honest dialogue about difficult topics, damage to university property is not acceptable,” the university said in a statement on the incident.

This is not the first time a campus statue or building has been vandalized with racially- or politically-charged graffiti.

In February 2017, a person painted the hands of a Thomas Jefferson statue red. The graffiti was part of a six-incident spree on campus from Feb. 10 to 11, 2017, which garnered national media attention.

“Punch ur local nazi” and “Smash Fascism” were also spray-painted on a campus road and a fence.

“Robert Gates is a war criminal” was painted on a building near Andrews Hall, and an anarchy symbol was painted on a nearby sidewalk.

“No nations borders” was spray-painted on the walkway near James Blair Hall. “Genocide happened here” was painted on the walkway near the Kaplan Arena.

More recently, in August, several racially-charged messages were left on Yates and Gooch halls saying “Still built by slaves,” “Slaves built ur bed” and “Still uses slave labor.”

Zagursky said no one has been charged in connection with the past incidents, although they are still under investigation.

The latest graffiti comes as William & Mary is working to acknowledge the university’s “complicated” past with slavery, social justice issues, a university spokeswoman said after the two residence halls were graffitied.

The James Monroe statue on William & Mary's campus. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
The James Monroe statue on William & Mary’s campus. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)

In April, the William & Mary Board of Visitors formally apologized for the school’s role in slavery and discrimination.

Now, the university is soliciting ideas for a memorial to those once enslaved at the college.

The university campus has security cameras outdoors, but Zagursky said she could not confirm the locations of specific cameras, and if there are any focused on the statues.

Campus police also conduct patrols all over campus daily and nightly, but the spokeswoman also said the timing and location of those patrols cannot be disclosed for security reasons.

The James Monroe statue was dedicated in April 2015 in honor of the famous alumnus. It was a gift of Carroll and Patty Owens, members of the college’s class of 1962.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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