PORTLAND, Ore. – Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday night in a declaration of “rage” toward Columbus Day.
Protest organizers dubbed the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” in response to Monday’s federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a polarizing figure who Native American advocates have said spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
The group threw chains around Roosevelt’s statue, officially titled “Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider.” They threw red paint on the monument and began using a blowtorch on the statue’s base, news outlets reported.
The crowd pulled down the statue just before 9 p.m. The group later turned their attention toward Lincoln’s statue, pulling it down about eight minutes later.
Historians have said Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans, once saying: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are …”
Protesters spray-painted “Dakota 38” on the base of Lincoln’s statue, referencing the 38 Dakota men Lincoln approved to have hanged after the men were involved in a violent conflict with white settlers in Minnesota.
After toppling the statues, the crowd began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society and later moved onto the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office.
Police later declared the event a riot and ordered the group to disperse. Police said anyone involved in “criminal behavior, including vandalism” was subject to arrest. It’s unclear if any arrests were made.
The monuments are the latest statues to come down in a wave of removed monuments and protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.