Black paint covers the face and hands of one of the statues that was defaced at the Confederate Memorial on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol on Wednesday in Montgomery. Graffiti covers the base of the Confederate Memorial. The letters and numbers "N.T. 11 11 31" are believed to be a reference to slave Nat Turner, who was hanged on Nov. 11, 1831 for starting a rebellion.
Alabama Capitol's Confederate monument vandalized
By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Unlike their visit a few months ago, Sandra Churchwell and Debra Wallace weren't alone Wednesday as they gazed up at the massive Confederate monument on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol.
That's because someone hopped over the wrought iron fence surrounding the monument during the weekend and painted the statues' faces and hands black.
"It's really a shame because this is such a nice monument, it's so old," Wallace said of the memorial, which was built on a cornerstone that was laid by Confederate president Jefferson Davis in 1886.
The letters and numbers "N.T. 11 11 31" were also written in black paint on the monument's base and is believed to be a reference to slave Nat Turner who was hanged on Nov. 11, 1831 for starting a rebellion.
"That's the only thing that we've come up with that has made any sense, it definitely was the right date for Nat Turner," Bob Canter, Senior Restoration Artisan for the Capitol, said Wednesday. "It was done either Saturday night or Sunday night."
Sunday was Nov. 11 and the 176th anniversary of Turner's death. It was also Veterans Day.
"It's just totally shocking that somebody would do something like this," said Leonard Wilson, division commander of the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "It's just totally senseless."
The group is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible and want the defacing to be investigated as a hate crime.
The memorial stands 98 feet tall and 45 feet square with a base of limestone and has five layered, angular, ledges leading up to smaller bases for a statue of a man on each of the four sides. The granite statues represent the cavalry, infantry, artillery and navy.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, had opposed $200,000 in state funds being used to refurbish the monument in 2005, but said someone who wants to recognize Nat Turner should have done so within the law.
"It belongs to the state and I think it was inappropriate for anyone to do that just as it was that someone shot the sign on the Martin Luther King Expressway 38 times and painted the whole thing black," he said. "As I was against that, I'm against this, too."
Restorers have already begun testing materials that can be used to remove the paint, and the cleaning will cost several thousand dollars, Canter said.
He said the waist-high black fence was put up in the late 1980s to deter vandals from breaking off pieces of the monument, which features a three-dimensional battle scene sculpted of bronze.
There are several cameras and the block is patrolled by the State Capitol Police, who are investigating the vandalism.
Canter said it's likely there was more than one vandal — possibly one per statue — and while he couldn't comment on the investigation, he said there is ample surveillance footage and he was confident the culprits would be caught.
In the meantime, Canter said the unwelcome paint job was bringing the most people he'd seen to the site since the 2005 cleaning.
Churchwell and Wallace noticed the same thing as they stopped by during a detour on their daily afternoon walk.
"That's the silver lining, I guess, if you're looking for the good to come out of the bad," Churchwell said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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