The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force says it is investigating vandalism to a George Floyd statue in Brooklyn, as a similar statue in New Jersey was also defaced overnight.
The vandalism to the Flatbush statue, which was unveiled on Flatbush Avenue last weekend amid the city's Juneteenth celebrations, was discovered Thursday morning, the department said. Much of it had been painted black.
The name of a group considered to be a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center was spray-painted on the statue's pedestal. Police released images of four suspects on Thursday, one of whom appeared to be shaking a spray paint can as they walked along Glenwood Road and Flatbush Avenue shortly before and after the vandalism took place.
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People who live in the neighborhood expressed disappointment at the vandalism, including Flatbush resident Courtney Nelson, who said she was "disgusted."
"This is unacceptable -- as a humanity, as a race, as a whole," Nelson said. "We will be back, we’re gonna clean it and keep moving forward.”
George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd, was on hand for the unveiling of the 6-foot sculpture Saturday and spoke about the importance of Juneteenth, America's newest federally recognized holiday, and keeping his brother's memory alive.
"It's a major statement for a major person," Terrence Floyd told NBC. "To see Brooklyn represent him, and honor him on a national holiday, it's all love."
Photos from the event showed Terrence Floyd weeping during the dedication ceremony.
New York City Council Member Farah Louis, a Democrat who represents the 45th District and serves as vice co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, condemned the statue vandalism in a statement Thursday.
"Let us be clear: this is a shameful act, a hate crime and totally disrespectful to the memory of Mr. Floyd and to the Black community as well our efforts to achieve racial justice and equality. And we will not be deterred," Louis said. "I ask anyone with information to please come forward and contact the NYPD. My office is working with artist Chris Carnabuci, ConfrontART and the We Are Floyd Foundation to repair the damage to this beautiful and moving work of public art."
Lindsay Eshelman of Confront Art echoed those sentiments, telling News 4, "to bring it here was a collaborative community effort and we will not let this vandalism, or should I say, 'hate,' deter our message ... the art is here to speak for itself and we are going to restore it so it can do that."
Another tribute to Floyd, whose death at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer sparked months-long national protests, was also discovered vandalized early Thursday morning in New Jersey. The 700-pound bronze statue in Newark, which debuted earlier this month outside city hall, had the face painted black, with the name of the same hate group painted in white on the front.
"The defacing of the statue of George Floyd has been a trend around the country," said Mayor Ras Baraka. "This horrible act is the very reason that this statue needs to remain and be upheld. As this is not just about George Floyd, it's a deliberate effort to push back against and ultimately dismantle systems of hatred, racism, and white supremacy. We celebrate those efforts in Newark, and will continue to do so, despite the ignorance that has reared its ugly head.”
A police sergeant discovered the vandalism just before 6 a.m., and the city's Public Works Department removed the paint. Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara said an investigation is ongoing to find who may have been responsible.
"The Newark Police Division will not tolerate any bias or hate crime, let alone one perpetrated by a white nationalist group that espouses the overthrow of the constitution and government of the United States," O'Hara said, adding that they were aware of the Brooklyn incident as well. "It's disgusting that what was meant to be a symbol of the dignity of all human life would be disfigured by those who espouse hate."
The Newark statue is set to stay in place for at least a year.
It's unclear if the incident is directly connected to the Brooklyn vandalism but they both come as the former police officer who was convicted of Floyd's murder in April is expected to receive his sentence on Friday.
Derek Chauvin, 45, faces decades in prison, with several legal experts predicting a sentence of 20 to 25 years. Though Chauvin is widely expected to appeal, he also still faces trial on federal civil rights charges, along with three other fired officers who have yet to have their state trials.
Anyone with information on the Brooklyn vandalism is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS. Anyone with information regarding the Newark vandalism is asked to call Newark's tip line at 1-877-NWK-TIPS (695-8477).