Last Wednesday Mayor Ras J. Baraka, actor, director, and filmmaker Leon Pinkney, artist Stanley Watts, and other dignitaries unveiled a 700 pound bronze statue honoring George Floyd in front of City Hall. The statue was donated by the sculptor, Stanley Watts and will be on display in front of City Hall for at least one year.
The artwork honors the life of George Floyd, an African-American man who was brutally murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. Mr. Floyd’s death elevated the “Black Lives Matter” movement which has resulted in an international response, including protests, police reform measures, and the removal of Confederate statues from public parks and racist names from organizations.
After much criticism of the statue being on display for about a week in Newark Mayor Baraka responded to critics on his biweekly Facebook Live show ‘Hold the Line’ where he is interviewed and often answers hard hitting questions about the community, new initiatives, and more. He explained as to why he thought having this display was necessary. “I’m an artist so I have sympathy and empathy for artists… I thought the statue was amazing.” Baraka went on to say,
“…The fact that it’s George Floyd it’s symbolic and I think that is important. If someone was building a statue of Emmitt Till we would take that. Emmett Till is known because he was lynched. There were thousands of African Americans lynched. But Emmett Till is portrayed in African American museums not because he was killed but because of the response that came after his death. So George Floyd is on display not simply because George Floyd was killed by the police but because of the response that came after his death. It galvanized the world and the country…all kinds of things are taking place because of the organizing that came after his death.”
The statue was defaced on Wednesday, night, June 23rd exactly one week following its reveal. Mayor along with the Director of Public Safety, Brian O’Hara are launching an investigation into who vandalized the statue. Early this morning a Newark Police Sargent noticed the statue was defaced with graffiti.The vandalists painted the face of the statue black and in white paint wrote on the statue’s torso “LIFE… LIBERTY VICTORY PATRIOTFRONT.US’ . “The defacing of the statue of George Floyd has been a trend around the country,” said Mayor Baraka. “This horrible act is the very reason that this statue needs to remain and be upheld. As this is not just about George Floyd, it’s a deliberate effort to push back against and ultimately dismantle systems of hatred, racism, and white supremacy. We celebrate those efforts in Newark, and will continue to so, despite the ignorance that has reared its ugly head.”
Director O’Hara also released the following statement in response to the defacing, “The Newark Police Division will not tolerate any bias or hate crime, let alone one perpetrated by a white nationalist group that espouses the overthrow of the constitution and government of the United States,” . O’Hara went on to say, “The Newark Police Division is vigorously investigating this incident to identify those responsible for this despicable act.”
The statue is currently on display in front of Newark’s City Hall and will be there for at least a year. Watch the full episode of Hold the Line below.
All photos were provided by the Newark Downtown Districts’ IG Page