BLM Protesters Vow to Tear Down Abraham Lincoln's Memorial

Published June 24th, 2020 - 09:24 GMT
A man waves an American flag with the words "Not Free" painted on it as he takes part in a Juneteenth march and rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP
A man waves an American flag with the words "Not Free" painted on it as he takes part in a Juneteenth march and rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP
They organized a protest for Thursday in which they plan to remove the statue.

President Trump called on Congress to act Tuesday night after protesters in Washington D.C. were seen burning an American flag. 

The president branded the demonstrators 'lowlifes', adding that it 'should be stopped'.   

His criticism came after protesters pledged to tear down Lincoln's Emancipation Memorial in the Capitol, vowing to return to Lincoln Park Thursday night to topple the controversial statue. 

Organizers of the protest said they would not be working with the police and would achieve change 'by any means necessary' as they crowded near the 150-year-old statue paid for by former enslaved people. 

Although paid for by former slaves, the Emancipation Memorial is criticized as it was designed by white people and depicts a former slave in a subservient position to Lincoln. 

As the protesters gathered earlier that evening, concrete barriers were installed in front of the White House after attempts to topple a nearby statue of Andrew Jackson on Monday night.

While law enforcement lined up near Lincoln Park and the White House preparing for potential run-ins with protesters, there was no police intervention and demonstrators said they would not be touching the statue Tuesday night. 

As the night progressed, groups broke off into various parts of the city where they were pictured climbing street posts to vandalize signs and setting fire to American flags, which angered President Trump. 

'It is [ashame] that Congress doesn’t do something about the lowlifes that burn the American Flag,' he wrote on Twitter.

'It should be stopped, and now!'

Dozens gathered near the Emancipation Monument for the demonstration organized by The Freedom Neighborhood earlier Tuesday evening with videos showing a woman speaking about the educational events held around the statue being shouted down by protesters. 

Protesters calling for it to be taken down say that the former slaves who paid for the statue had no say in how it would be built and that even in its unveiling, abolitionist Fredrick Douglas said it 'perpetuated negative stereotypes about African Americans'. 

The crowd chanted 'No Justice, No Peace' as the woman was told to stop speaking. 

'He freed the slaves for political advancement,' one speaker said, according to WUSA9 journalist Tom Dempsey. 

'Not because he cared, not because he wanted to. 

'And the thing is that when we freed ourselves, we had seven years of progress, the best seven years for black people in the entire American history'. 

Police in riot gear were pictured standing in a group on the outskirts of the protest but no run-ins were reported.  

'We're kicking off the revolution with a series of shutting down the Capitol events and bringing attention to the injustices in the black community starting with Lincoln Park, a statue that embodies the racial undertones of black people being inferior to white people,' The Freedom Neighborhood said in a social media post. 


 The group added that they would not be working with police to enact the change 'nor will we seek any relationship with them'. 

'In order to create change, we will do so by any means necessary. If you want a revolution, it won't happen by being peaceful,' the group wrote. 

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton has also said she wants the statue removed and will introduce legislation to do so. 

'Because Lincoln Park is National Park Service (NPS) land, I will work with the NPS to see whether NPS has the authority to remove the statue without an act of Congress, and if so, we will seek its removal without a bill,' said Norton in a statement . 

'This statue has been controversial from the start. It is time it was placed in a museum.' 

The Emancipation statue was first erected on April 11, 1876, exactly eleven years to the day of Lincoln's assassination. 

It was paid for by formerly enslaved people, many of them Black veterans, to honor Lincoln for the Emancipation Proclamation. 

The fundraising was started after Virginian Charlotte Scott donated the first $5 she earned as a free person to create a memorial to Lincoln, according to DCist. 

The statue is located at the center of Lincoln Park, which is itself located midway between the U.S. Capitol and RFK Stadium.  

The Emancipation Memorial statue originally faced the Capitol but was moved 180 degrees to face a statue celebrating African American educator Mary McLeod Bethune when that was erected in Lincoln Park in 1974. 

Yet criticism has constantly surrounded the memorial because of the way in which it depicts Lincoln towering over a freed person. 

The freed enslaved person is shown on one knee looking up to Lincoln with broken shackles on his wrists. Below them the word 'Emancipation' is written.  

Critics say the design does not recognize the work of slaves to establish their own freedom. 

'The designers of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park in DC didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows,' Norton said. 

'Blacks too fought to end enslavement. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to move this statue to a museum.'

'Understandably, they were only recently liberated from slavery and were grateful for any recognition of their freedom,' she added in a statement to WUSA9. 

'However, in his keynote address at the unveiling of this statue, Frederick Douglass also expressed his displeasure with the statue.'

As of Tuesday evening, more than 4,700 people have signed a petition for its removal. 

'It’s time to take down monuments that memorialize the intended subservience of black people in this country.,' say the petition, started by Marcus Goodwin, a candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.

'Confederate statues are the obvious example, but this statue in Washington, DC perpetuates the idea that we are beneath white people and should simply be grateful for the scraps that have been thrown our way. 

'While Abraham Lincoln was a monumental US President, worthy of memorializing, he already has a national monument that doesn’t have degrading racial undertones.'

Goodwin has said that the removal is not to undermine the legacy of Lincoln but to 'examine this statue more specifically for how it’s represented'. 

He believes that the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune already in the park should be made the centerpiece instead. 

Tuesday's Lincoln protest came on the heels of an incident in Lafayette Park Monday night over an Andrew Jackson statue. 

Concrete barriers were seen being mounted outside the White House Tuesday evening as they prepared for more protests at the nearby statue, where police and protesters clashed on Monday night. 

Protesters had attempted to tear down the statue but police intervened.

On Monday night, President Donald Trump demanded ten year prison sentences for protesters who tried to pull down a statue of former president Jackson while trying to build a 'Black House Autonomous Zone' outside the White House.

Trump announced that 'numerous people' have been arrested for the 'disgraceful vandalism' of the 'magnificent' statue of Jackson Lafayette Park and also wrote that protesters had defaced the exterior of St. John's Church.

In a tweet following violent clashes between demonstrators and cops in riot gear, he wrote: '10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!'

Last Friday, the statue to Confederate General Andrew Pike was also torn down and burned by protesters in the Capitol. It was the only outdoor statue to a Confederate in D.C.

Pike is considered by some as being was instrumental to the establishment of the Ku Klux Klan but the Freemasons, in which he was involved, insist evidence does not support that.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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