Black paint was thrown onto the bust of Floyd, which had been placed in Flatbush Junction near Brooklyn College, and white stenciled graffiti spelling out the URL of a fascist group’s website was spray-painted on the base of the statue memorializing the 46-year-old Black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department said officers discovered the vandalism early Thursday. “There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The NYPD Hate Crimes task force tweeted it was investigating the incident.
Lindsay Eshelman — co-founder of ConfrontART, which partnered with the We Are Floyd Foundation, started by Floyd’s brother, Terence Floyd, to erect the statue — said police told her the vandalism likely occurred between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday, the two-hour window when officers were not stationed near the statue.
Eshelman, who talked to HuffPost by phone Thursday while helping repaint the statue, said she was “devastated” to learn of the vandalism.
But she also offered a defiant message for the vandals: “You’re cowards. You did this at night when no one could see you. I’m restoring it in the day when everybody can see your hate.”
Terence Floyd, who attended the statue’s unveiling, heard about the vandalism just as his flight landed Thursday morning in Minneapolis. On Friday, he’ll sit in a courtroom to watch as the police officer who murdered his brother is sentenced, possibly to decades in prison.
The vandalism, Floyd told HuffPost in a statement, “is a perfect example of why we are so diligent in promoting change. As a community we should stand together in peace and in turmoil.”
Farah Louis, the New York City councilwoman who represents the area where the statue is located, tweeted that the vandalism was “a hate crime and totally unacceptable to the memory of Mr. Floyd and to the Black community.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted: “Last night a far-right extremist group vandalized a statue of George Floyd in Brooklyn. A racist, loathsome, despicable act of hate. The City Cleanup Corps is repairing the statue right now and a hate crime investigation is underway. We will bring these cowards to justice.”
Patriot Front, the white supremacist group whose website was spray-painted onto the base, earlier this month claimed responsibility for vandalizing a George Floyd mural in Philadelphia.
A video posted to the group’s Telegram channel on June 12 shows three masked men painting over the Philadelphia mural on the night of June 3, then defacing it further with spray-painted Patriot Front logos.
Patriot Front, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, grew out of another white supremacist organization called Vanguard America, which disbanded not long after one of its members drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, killing one and injuring 19 others.
Members of the group fear being exposed and mostly keep their identities a secret, sneaking around at night in masks while filming themselves placing Patriot Front stickers or flyers on lampposts or other pieces of public and private property.
The group has also held flash-mob marches in Washington, Nashville and other cities, where they turned up in masks and filmed themselves chanting for a few minutes before rushing off to their cars and driving away before they could be confronted.
“Patriot Front is explicit in its exclusion of people of color from its conception of pan-European identity as the authentic America,” Susan Corke, the head of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, told HuffPost in a statement. “And their method of operation is to stage offensive racist propaganda stunts. Thus this abhorrent, hateful defacement of the George Floyd statue is more of the same garbage.”
Patriot Front, which didn’t return a HuffPost request for comment, hasn’t taken responsibility for the vandalism in Brooklyn.
The 6-foot sculpture of Floyd, whose murder sparked a wave of anti-racist uprisings across America last year, was unveiled on Juneteenth, a newly recognized federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.
“It’s a major statement for a major person,” Terence Floyd told NBC at the unveiling of artist Chris Carnabuci’s sculpture. “To see Brooklyn represent him, and honor him on a national holiday, it’s all love.”