A 106-year-old monument to the author of the national anthem, Francis Scott Key, was vandalized Wednesday — spray-painted in red declaring “racist anthem,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she has no plans to remove the monument — and directed art preservation experts to figure out the cost of cleaning it.
The vandals also spray-painted those words onthe sidewalk next to it: “No refuge could save/ Hireling or slave/ From terror of flight/ Or gloom of grave,” the Sun reported.
In particular, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick stoked a national controversy last season over his decision not to stand for the anthem before football games in protest of racism in America.
“We understand the freedom of expression, but there certainly has to be a more constructive and productive way to have a conversation about history,” Pugh spokesman Anthony McCarthy told the Sun.
The city spent $125,000 to restore the Key monument in 1999, after the monument went neglected for years, the Sun reported. It was built for $25,000 by French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie and dedicated in 1911.
“It’s so counterproductive, what they’re doing,” Eric Holcomb, executive director of the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, told the Sun. “History’s messy. It’s nuanced. It’s something to talk about, not something to erase.”
Key, a slave owner who also reportedly donated his legal services to slaves fighting for their freedom, wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the Battle of Baltimore as he watched the overnight bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British fleet in 1814.