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Vandalism of Andrew Jackson statue reminds onlookers who was responsible for Trail of Tears

'Remember May 28, 1830' is still faintly visible in this photo of the Andrew Jackson statue. Crews used at least two coats of paint and a pressure washer to remove the vandalism.
'Remember May 28, 1830' is still faintly visible in this photo of the Andrew Jackson statue. Crews used at least two coats of paint and a pressure washer to remove the vandalism. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Andrew Jackson statue in downtown Jacksonville has been restored after it was found vandalized for a second time in as many days Tuesday morning.

The prominent statue, located in the center of a busy traffic circle at the intersection of South Laura Street and East Independent Drive, was first splattered with red paint sometime during Sunday evening into Monday morning.

The head of the statue and the nameplate of the monument looked like someone poured red paint on it. “Slave Owner” was written in a similar color on the back of the statue.

At that time, when News4Jax asked a spokesperson for the city if they were aware of the vandalism, they said they weren’t. A few hours later, city crews cleaned the statue with a pressure washer.

It was a similar scene Tuesday morning. The statue was again the target of red paint, but this time a message had been inscribed for onlookers.

“Remember May 28, 1830,″ 

It was the only damage done to the statue in that instance. 

What happened May 28, 1830?

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. It authorized President Jackson to grant land west of the Mississippi River in exchange for the lands of the American Indian tribes living primarily in the southeastern United States. It ultimately led to the Trail of Tears. 

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of 60,000 Native Americans carried out by the American government to present-day Oklahoma. During the brutal journey, Native American men, women, and children suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation. Historians estimate more than 4,000 people died before reaching the destination.

President Jackson was quoted on record describing the removal as a “happy consummation” of the government’s policy of Indian removal. 

READ: More about the Indian Removal Act and The Trail of Tears

These latest instances are far from the first time vandals have targeted the statue. In 2015 someone spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for D” a reference to D’Angelo Stallworth who was shot and killed by officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in May of that year. Someone also placed a fake Native American head on the monument.

In Washington D.C., protesters tried to pull down a statue of Jackson near the White House Monday night before being dispersed by police.

President Donald Trump tweeted late Monday that “Numerous people” had been arrested for “the disgraceful vandalism.” He added: “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”

He tweeted again Tuesday morning saying he had authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys “any monument, statue or other such federal property in the U.S.”

Jackson was the seventh president of the U.S. and was an American military figure who led several campaigns against the Seminole Indians in Florida, including the Second Seminole War, which started in 1835 and lasted for over six years.

The city of Jacksonville is named after Jackson, though some people think his presidency and the policies he enacted related to Native Americans were part of an ugly chapter in American history.


About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.