Vandals have cut down a flagpole at a memorial in a village outside of New York City that honored five local firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The vandalism in Washingtonville was discovered early Wednesday, according to the Times-Herald Record. Police have launched an investigation.
Washingtonville Police Chief Brian Zaccaro told the newspaper that vandals cut the flagpole about four or five feet from its base, toppling it. They also wrote a message on the part left standing. Police would not release what the message said, but stated that an eagle figure that sat atop the flagpole was found next to a vandalized sign at the St. Mary’s Parish Center about a half-mile away.
The destroy everything & hate everyone culture has struck again last night as the Washingtonville NY Orange County 9/11 Memorial park was vandalized & AMERICAN FLAG CUT DOWN. These individuals obviously don't know what sacrificing everything to save a fellow human being really is pic.twitter.com/oUFdh3gWr2
— NYCFireWire (@NYCFireWire) July 8, 2020
“These two locations mean so much to Washingtonville and the larger community,” said New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, whose district includes the area, the Record reported.
The memorial includes a semi-circle of black granite monuments bearing the names of five local victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, all members of the New York City Fire Department: firefighters Mark Whitford, Bobby Hamilton and Gerry Nevins, Batallion Chief Dennis Devlin and Lt. Glenn Perry. Atop each stone is a replica of a firefighter’s helmet.
The somber, granite-and-brick tribute to the “Washingtonville Five” and the other 9/11 victims was completed on Sept. 7, 2002, in time for the first anniversary of their deaths. Police say no parts of the memorial other than the flagpole were damaged.
Washingtonville Mayor Joseph Bucco said the village will replace the flagpole and likely add surveillance cameras. He also said on Facebook that a reward of more than $3,000 is now being offered for information about the vandalism.
Vandals across the country have been targeting statues, memorials, and monuments in protests that began after George Floyd died on Memorial Day following a Minneapolis police officer using his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for over eight minutes.
Some of the vandals’ targets don’t make sense. For instance, on July 5, in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests, vandals toppled a replica statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York.
“The timing is significant: on July 5, 1852, Douglass delivered his famous speech, ‘What to the slave is the fourth of July?’ pointing out the hypocrisy of celebrating independence when millions of Black people remained enslaved,” USA Today wrote.
The statue was ripped from its base and dragged 50 away, ending up near a river gorge.
“[W]ithout any clear answers, the news of the statue’s destruction set off wide speculation about whether it was connected in some way to the continuing debate over the defacement, toppling and removal of monuments honoring Confederate generals and other controversial white historical figures,” The New York Times wrote.
“On Monday, President Trump weighed in. In speeches over the July Fourth weekend, he had portrayed the destruction of national monuments as an assault on American values. He said on Twitter that the vandalism in Rochester was the work of ‘anarchists,’ a term he has used repeatedly to describe protesters marching against police brutality,” The New York Times noted. “Some protesters have also urged, and some have carried out, the removal of statues of pro-slavery figures.”
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