A bronze statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko in Washington DC's Lafayette Park, the US, was vandalised on Sunday night by some individuals who took to the streets following the death of 46-year-old Afro-American George Floyd, who died as a result of a police detention procedure on May 25.
Video footage tweeted by Poland’s RMF radio correspondent shows hooded individuals graffiti-tagging the statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish noble freedom fighter and US independence struggle hero best recognised for his outstanding military engineering acumen provided to the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
The writings put on the statue included invectives against US President Donald Trump and the BLM abbreviation, standing for Black Lives Matter social movement, which campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. BLM regularly holds protests speaking out against police killings of black people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the US criminal justice system.
Poland’s Ambassador to the US Piotr Wilczek expressed his “disgust” at the vandalisation of the statue.
Former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker and former US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker shared Ambassador Wilczek’s stance on the incident, tweeting “could not agree more with @AmbWilczek.”
I am disgusted and appalled by the acts of vandalism committed against the statue of Thaddeus Kościuszko in DC, a hero who fought for the independence of both the US and Poland. I implore @WhiteHouse & @NatlParkService to quickly restore the statue to its original state. https://t.co/5VuB33svpp— Piotr Wilczek ���� (@AmbWilczek) June 1, 2020
Social media users are divided in their opinion on the vandalisation of the statue. Proponents of more outspoken ways of public protest argue that Kościuszko, being a revolutionary himself, would team up with the supporters of black rights activists. Notably, a Twitter user garnering Polish voters’ support for Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has been tapping into this narrative.
Could not agree more with @AmbWilczek! I grew up in Pennsylvania learning about "Thad." So disrespectful and sad... not to mention St. John's Church, @WhiteHouseHstry Decatur House, and all businesses downtown... @NatlParkService https://t.co/tgPX59GWEt— Kurt Volker (@kvolker) June 1, 2020
Other social media users deplore the fact that the statue was uglified and made a target for frustration-venting. Some pointed to the irony of fact that Tadeusz Kościuszko was himself a friend of black people. In the will, Kościuszko left his American estate to be sold to buy the freedom of black slaves, including Thomas Jefferson's own, and to educate them for independent life and work.
The case of George Floyd
The statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko became a victim of country-wide protests that followed the death of a 46-year-old Afro-American George Floyd, who died as a result of a police detention procedure on May 25.
Mr Floyd was detained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on suspicion of using a counterfeit USD 20 bill. Explaining he was claustrophobic he refused to go inside a police vehicle. Mr Floyed was then handcuffed and pinned to the ground by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who also placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
The officer ignored Mr Floyd’s pleas that he was unable to breathe. Reportedly Mr Floyd repeatedly told the officer “I can’t breath”. Hashtagged, the phrase later became a rallying call for the protesters.
With his pleas ignored by the then police officer Chauvin, Mr Floyd lapsed into unresponsiveness and was later pronounced dead. Preliminary results from the official autopsy found no indication that Floyd died of strangulation or traumatic asphyxia, but that the combined effects of being restrained, underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, and potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death. Nevertheless, attorneys for Mr Floyd's family announced that they have requested an independent autopsy.
The four officers involved in the incident have since been fired. Mr Chauvin, who already had 17 official complaints against him, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Meanwhile, in Kraków, Poland, a small memorial to George Floyd was established in front of the US Consulate in Krakow. The memorial consists of a photo of George Floyd, notes, flowers, and candles.