Weeks-old statue of Breonna Taylor smashed to pieces

Weeks-old statue of Breonna Taylor smashed to pieces in Oakland

A plaque with Taylor’s name and the phrase “Say Her Name” was displayed on the front of the statue

Kent Ford, co-founder of Portland's Black Panther Party carries a painting of Breonna Taylor during a march for Kevin E. Peterson Jr. who was killed by police in Vancouver, Washington. Credit: Reuters Photo

It took several months for a Bay Area sculptor to shape the clay with his hands into a likeness of Breonna Taylor, which he finished with a dark brown satin glaze.

But less than two weeks after the statue memorializing Taylor was installed in a busy downtown plaza in Oakland, California, its creator, Leo Carson, said he held the broken pieces of the vandalized ceramic bust in those same hands.

The sculpture was smashed in several places late last week, drawing widespread condemnation in the community and prompting a police investigation.

The vandalism was regarded as another indignity to those still grappling with the killing of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and emergency room technician, by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, during a botched drug raid in March. Taylor’s death, along with the killing of George Floyd in late May, stoked widespread protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

A plaque with Taylor’s name and the phrase “Say Her Name” was displayed on the front of the statue that was vandalized in Latham Square plaza, which is near Oakland City Hall.

Also read: Officer charged in Breonna Taylor case pleads not guilty

“I built it to support the Black Lives Matter movement,” Carson said in an interview Monday night, “but that also makes it a target for racist aggression.”

A spokesperson for the Oakland Police Department said in an email Monday night that a police report had been filed in the matter and that the vandalism was under investigation.

Carson, 30, who is white, said he spent about $600 making the sculpture, which he placed in the plaza on December 12. He chronicled the installation on Instagram, which one person warned at the time could face a backlash. “Pull that down,” the person wrote, “it’s a source of riots.”

Carson, who made trips to Home Depot and a ceramics studio while making the sculpture, said he had prepared for the possibility that the installation could be damaged.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “I just had a feeling like I had to do it anyway. It didn’t matter.”

Mayor Libby Schaff of Oakland denounced the vandalism in a Twitter post-Monday.

“It’s a vicious attack against the light + justice sought in Breonna Taylor’s name,” Schaff wrote. “We will keep moving forward; Oakland will not tolerate acts of hatred.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, also condemned the damage to the sculpture.

“This act of vandalism disrespects Breonna’s memory, what she represents and the work of this artist,” Greenblatt said Monday on Twitter.

Carson said that the outpouring of support from the community had been heartening and that he had raised about $8,000 on a GoFundMe page toward building a new sculpture from bronze. He said he planned to donate the remaining funds to Taylor’s family.

The three officers implicated in Taylor’s death avoided homicide charges in September, setting off a new round of protests across the nation. A grand jury in Louisville indicted one officer, who was fired, on three counts of wanton endangerment.

Carson said that someone on Instagram told him about the vandalism over the weekend.

“In that sense, it’s not surprising," he said, “but it doesn’t reflect Oakland.”

The sculptor said he quickly went to check on the sculpture so he could retrieve the broken pieces, which he said would be repaired and eventually used in the mold for the bronze sculpture.

“It gives her a sense of wholeness again,” he said.

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