Martin Luther King, Jr., Denver

Monument Of Martin Luther King Jr. Vandalized In Denver

The statue does not have a security system.

On Feb. 20, a statue of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was vandalized by an unknown party. Several pieces of the monument were removed, including a bronze torch, an angel, and a bronze panel containing an image of Black military veterans. According to Ed Dwight, the monument’s creator, as well as former Mayor and first lady of Denver, Wellington and Wilma Webb, the statue does not have a security system. 

As the Denver Post reports, the ex-Mayor and first lady addressed the incident at a press conference on Feb. 22, calling it an attack on the memory of Dr. King. Wilma Webb said it should concern everyone in America, not just residents of Denver. “This is something that all Coloradans and all Denverites and all people in America should be concerned about,” Wilma Webb explained. “This is certainly an assault and insult to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Wellington Webb chose to draw attention to the fact that the area was not secured by a surveillance system in his remarks. “This location needs to have lights around it, it also needs to have video cameras,” Wellington Webb said. “If we had video cameras and lights I think we would have caught who damaged this sculpture the other night.”

The Webbs both played a crucial part in ensuring Dr. King received his just due in Denver and Colorado. Wellington, as mayor, helped create the memorial in Denver’s city park alongside his wife. Wilma, for her part, used her position as a Colorado state representative from 1980 to 1993 to sponsor legislation aimed at making Dr. King’s birthday a state holiday before the federal government made it a national holiday. 

In a press release, the ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Deborah Richardson called the act of vandalism outrageous, saying, “The violation of this monument, designed by a Black artist to commemorate a Black luminary, is outrageous and must be condemned in the strongest terms possible,” Richardson said. “I grew up in the Collier Heights neighborhood of Atlanta surrounded by Black civil rights leaders, including Dr. King’s family. This act is particularly distressing to me, as well as the memory and legacy of my loved ones and the community that raised me.”

In addition to the ACLU, the ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin offered a statement of solidarity, calling the vandalism of the monument a terrible crime. “We condemn in the strongest terms the desecration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. This terrible crime sends a message to communities of color that they are not welcome,” Levin said. “I want to make it clear that all people, including those from Black, Brown, Indigenous and other targeted communities are welcome in Colorado. All of us are entitled to feel safe, secure and welcomed in a state where there should be no place for hate.”

Vern Howard, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission chair, told the Denver Post on Feb. 21 that the attempts to stop their work would not work. “You can steal. You can take. You can pull. You can hate. You can do everything that you believe necessary to detour the message of Dr. King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission,” said Howard. “We’re going to continue to march, to honor and to work toward freedom, toward justice, toward the end of racism, toward the end of hatred and the end of discrimination.”

The Associated Press reported that no suspects have yet been identified, but the Denver Police Department’s Bias-Motivated Crime Unit is investigating the incident. Police are also trying to ascertain if there was any racial bias involved. 

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