A statue of George Washington was pulled down from the lawn outside the German American Society in Northeast Portland on the eve of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Video of the toppling posted on social media Thursday shows a crowd cheering as the statue is pulled from its base. It had been spray-painted with phrases including, “You’re on Native land” and “BLM.”
Washington’s was the second Portland statue to be pulled down by protesters in the midst of nightly protests against police violence and racism. Over the weekend, demonstrators had toppled a bronze Thomas Jefferson statue in front of Jefferson High School. Both former presidents were slave owners.
The Regional Arts and Culture Council, which maintains the statue, has made plans to remove the statue and place it in storage sometime Friday. No decisions have been made yet on whether or not the statue will be reinstalled, according to the communications manager Heather Nelson Kent.
On Friday afternoon, members of the council, including its director of public art Kristen Calhoun, mingled with neighborhood residents who had stopped by to see to see the fallen monument.
Calhoun asked one resident what she thought they should do with the statue. He said he told her it should be retired to a museum.
The man, who asked not to be identified, said he'd run to the statue and back when he was on the cross country team from nearby Madison High School and had always found the monument offensive.
"Yeah, he's the founder of the country," he said. "But 300 slaves is a lot of slaves."
Phoebe Thornock, 34, and Lex Kumar, 38, sat watching the scene Friday afternoon. Both said they felt the statue should be taken to a museum and displayed exactly as it lay in front of them right now – spray paint, broken podium and defaced.
“We have this moment to consider who we want to idolize,” Thornock said.
Calhoun said she recognized there are more statues that many find offensive in Portland and the council is currently in conversations with the city about what to do with them — and where to place the one that has been toppled.
"I think there's a temporary response that needs to happen, and there's a long term response, which includes considering removal," Calhoun said.
The bronze statute weighs 1,920 pounds. By noon Friday, the city's transportation bureau had brought a tow truck to the site as they worked on removal.
Activists in Eugene pulled down two pioneer statues on the University of Oregon campus Saturday. According to KLCC, student groups had asked the school to remove them before, saying they served as a symbol of racism.
Portland police reported the toppling of Washington’s statue happened during a night that saw several hundred demonstrators at Jefferson High School and a second group gathering near the Justice Center for several hours “throwing projectiles such as hotdogs.”
Police reported that no arrests were made during Thursday night's demonstrations.