The Boston Common, the Public Garden and the Commonwealth Avenue were left in tatters after Sunday afternoon’s peaceful protests over George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who allegedly died there at the hands of police, took a destructive turn after nightfall.
“There was a lot of damage in all three parks.”
Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit that helps maintain the three parks in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, “but the biggest impact from graffiti was experienced on the Common.”
Thousands of protestors had marched without incident from Government Center to the Common, but tensions escalated at around 9 p.m. when the city’s curfew in response to the COVID-19 took effect, and police attempted to disperse the large crowd gathered in the park.
The 54th Regiment Memorial on the Boston Common, which pays tribute to the first Northern black volunteer infantry unit enlisted to fight in the Civil War, was among the park landmarks defaced. Vandals tore down protective fencing and spray-painted graffiti on the rear of the monument, which is now undergoing an extensive restoration, Vizza said.
Elsewhere, the Alexander Hamilton statue on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall was covered in graffiti on all four sides, and the George Washington statue in the Public Garden was also tagged.
Sixteen trashcans in the Public Garden were set ablaze as well.
“When this happens, the community hurts,” Vizza said. “It doesn’t just hurt a monument or a greenspace, it hurts all of our hearts.”
By early Monday morning, the city’s Graffiti Busters and volunteers were on the scene to help clean up the wreckage in the parks.
“There were dozens of community leaders picking up trash, and that was a beautiful thing to see,” Vizza said.
While Vizza was left heartbroken by the damage to the parks, she said that the Friends group still supports those protesters who gathered on the Common and acted responsibly.
“The Common is our center stage of civic life…and we stand in solidarity in spirit with the peaceful protestors,” Vizza said. “We support their First Amendment right to protest injustice or what they want to speak about, and this is the ground where we have done that for generations.”