The statue of African American tennis legend Arthur Ashe on Richmond, Virginia’s, Monument Avenue has been vandalised with the words “White Lives Matter”, a phrase used as a banner by far-right groups.
Photos show the base of the monument tagged with white spray paint and the words “White Lives Matter” as well as the initials “WLM”. Those initials were then later painted over with “BLM”, for Black Lives Matter.
Richmond Police said they were alerted to the vandalism at about 10:15am on Wednesday. Police said red paint on the statue itself was already being cleaned off by community members.
The said they have information on possible suspects and are asking the community to call their Crime Stoppers line, which allows people to anonymously report criminal behaviour, if they have information on who is responsible for the vandalism.
The Arthur Ashe monument was dedicated in 1996 to memorialise the Richmond native and counterbalance the string of statues on Memorial Avenue dedicated to Confederate leaders.
The vandalism of the Ashe statue comes as multiple Confederate statues have been toppled, vandalised and slated for removal in the city during protests prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The most recent statue to fall in Richmond was the Howitzer memorial, which was erected for troops that fought during the Confederate rebellion to maintain slavery.
The monument showed a Confederate artilleryman standing in front of a gun and was erected in 1892 to memorialise the city’s Civil War artillery unit, according to the Encyclopedia of Virginia.
It fell on Tuesday evening after being defaced by demonstrators who rallied against police brutality in the wake of the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May.
As the US contends with its racist past, US governors are announcing official commemorations of Juneteenth, a popular holiday that celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the US celebrated on June 19.
The date honours June 19, 1865, when the news was delivered to former slaves in Texas that they had been emancipated two years prior.
New York and Virginia have announced this week the holiday will be recognised officially. Virginia will offer paid time off for employees.
They follow Texas, which made Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980.