A cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, is adding additional surveillance after Confederate graves and a monument to Confederate war dead were graffitied with vulgar, anti-police slogans earlier this month.
Vandals entered the Oakland-Fraternal Cemetery during the early morning hours of July 11 to deface an obelisk dedicated to 900 unknown Confederate soldiers. They also spray painted nine Confederate graves, most of which contained unidentified remains, according to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Phrases scrawled on the memorials included “Black Lives Matter,” “F Trump,” “F your martyr,” and “Defund the pigs!!”
The word “Confederate” was also hacked out of the wooden headstones, which were spray painted with the letters B, L, and M. One headstone was removed altogether.
Sexton John Raines told the local paper, “They destroyed one of our obelisks and wrote all over it with spray paint, and chipped it very badly beyond repair. They wrote a bunch of racial slurs and f this, f that.”
“It’s irreplaceable,” Raines continued. “I mean, we could have it replaced, I guess. It’d be tens of thousands of dollars to do, but we don’t have plans at this moment.”
Confederate section of Little Rock cemetery damaged https://t.co/tvafKo0X9P
— AR Democrat-Gazette (@ArkansasOnline) July 27, 2020
The cemetery, first founded in 1862 to inter the many Civil War soldiers who died at the hospital in Little Rock, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996. The desecrated obelisk, raised in 1914 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, marks the site where around 900 unknown Confederates were buried in a mass grave after dying from disease.
“This little tiny Confederate cemetery — they would have really have to have come looking for this,” Raines said, offering his theory that the site was deliberately targeted in advance.
Cameras donated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and installed shortly before the incident captured clear pictures of the vandals, Raines said. Footage reportedly shows a black man with a walkie-talkie and a white woman approach the obelisk, wrap a strap around it, and attempt to rip it down.
“[We put them up] about a week before this happened,” Raines said. “It was total luck. Those were donated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They’ve told us since then they’re going to donate probably another 10 to the cemetery to be used all over.”
The perpetrators “were looking around to see if anything was watching them, and they found the cameras and threw them,” he said. “They threw them not knowing they had little SD cards in them. They should have stolen them, but they didn’t.”
The Little Rock Police Department is leading the investigation into the incident with the aid of the FBI. A spokesman for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. condemned the act, telling the Democrat-Gazette, “Desecration of any grave is a crime, and the Little Rock Police Department is fully investigating.”
Confederate statues and memorials have been particularly targeted during a summer that has seen the images of various historical figures toppled nationwide. Earlier this month, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, ordered the removal all Confederate statues on city property.
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