A video taken this morning on Mount Tabor shows a woman railing against a bust of York, the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, moments after she defaced the bronze statue with purple spray paint.
“It’s love and unity,” the woman says, “not to replace a white man with a fucking Black man. That’s not fucking unity.”
The woman, who appears distressed, is holding two cans of spray paint while standing in front of the bust, which is covered in purple scrawl. The bust of York appeared in February after protesters toppled a statue of Harvey Scott that previously stood on the site.
The person who captured the video and sent it to WW is a Montavilla resident who was out for a hike in Mount Tabor Park shortly after 8 am today. They saw the woman, dressed in a sweater and yoga pants, defacing the plaque below the bust with spray paint.
The person who took the video says they’d never seen the woman before.
“I was really upset,” says the person who took the video, who asked that their identity be withheld. “What do I do? Do I grab the can away from her? She was really upset. She was shaking. I got the sense that she was really upset about a Black statue being there, more than anything. Which is really scary.”
The statue of Scott, an 1870s editor-in-chief of The Oregonian who opposed women’s suffrage, was one of several Portland monuments torn down last summer amid racial-justice protests. In February, the bust of York, installed by an anonymous artist, appeared on the same pedestal.
York was an enslaved man who journeyed to Oregon as part of the Corps of Discovery, becoming the first Black man to traverse the country.
The new statue has become a destination, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council has assumed responsibility for its maintenance. Yet this is the second time in three months that the bust’s base has been defaced.
The previous vandalism featured racial-justice slogans like “LAND BACK” and “DECOLONIZE,” suggesting that the spray painting came from a leftist who felt the new art was insufficient. Today’s incident appears differently motivated.
The woman appears to say she considers herself the victim of racial discrimination by Black and Hispanic people. “I will pay for damages if you want me to,” she adds. “Fuck all of you.”
Social-media posts suggest that the woman returned later that morning to add further spray paint to the pedestal.