Just two days after it was unveiled in Manhattan’s Union Square, a statue of George Floyd was vandalized. Video released on Monday showed an unidentified suspect ducking behind a nearby statue of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) on Sunday morning. A few moments later the suspect hurled silver paint on the face and base of the Floyd bust before riding off on a skateboard.
The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Forced is now investigating the incident. This is the second time the statue of Mr. Floyd, an African-American man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota during an arrest in May 2020, has been defaced. It was previously vandalized just days after it was unveiled on Juneteenth in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
It didn’t take long for the news to break of the statue being defaced, for reactions to resonate across Twitter, with most condemning the actions. New York Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul), tweeted, “This act of cowardice and hate is reprehensible. I have directed @nyspolice Hate Crimes Task Force to provide any assistance in the investigation to find the perpetrator and hold them accountable.”
“A man on a skateboard vandalizes the newly erected statue of George Floyd in New York’s Union Square. Even in death, the very idea of George Floyd being memorialized still frightens them,” wrote author Keith Boykin (@keithboykin).
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Curtis Sliwa (@CurtisSliwa), chief executive officer of the Guardian Angels and Republican nominee for the 2021 New York City mayoral election, also expressed outrage, writing, “The vandalization of the George Floyd statue in NYC is disgraceful. Illegal destruction of public & private property and violence in any form should be condemned. If you disagree with a statue or policy, then express it via the democratic process! This vandalization is cowardice.”
The near civility of this debate almost comes as a bit of surprise.
“People are emotionally frayed and the touch point has become vaccinations,” suggested Dr. Lorenzo M. Boyd, Ph.D., professor in the criminal justice and community policing department at Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, University of New Haven.
“As Americans we have very short memories,” Boyd added. “For a lot of people Mr. Floyd was yesterday’s news. We’re now onto masking and vaxxing.”
Of course, the act of vandalism was used by some to debate the calls for police reform.
“Don’t defund the police if you want your George Floyd statue protected from vandalism,” offered conservative author Nick Adams (@NickAdamsinUSA).
The vandalizing of the statue also stirred up another debate as whether Mr. Floyd deserved to be honored with a statue, and how different people are reacting to this act of vandalism while other statues have been torn down.
“George Floyd does not deserve a statue,” suggested author and security expert Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte).
However, not all the comments were as civil or direct as Gabriel’s.
The question is whether social media and Twitter actually allows a reasonable discussion to these issues – especially whether Mr. Floyd deserved to be honored with a statue, as well as why statutes to past presidents including Washington and Lincoln have also been defaced.
“Social media is absolutely not the right place for this conversation,” said Boyd. “One part of the problem is that people get to post on social media with a degree of anonymity. They can hide behind their online persona and often times without repercussions for their actions.”
Then there is the fact that “facts” don’t always matter.
“People don’t fact check, especially if they read a post that agrees with their preconceived notions,” said Boyd. “Social media is also a terrible way to have a debate or meaningful discussion when most messages are just 240 characters.”
Boyd added that even longer posts on other platforms aren’t read either.
“It comes down to ‘TLDR’ or ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read,” Boyd warned. “Today we see that most want to rely on the headline and the more captivating headline is what sticks, often regardless of what the story actually says.”
There is also the danger of what Boyd said are the social media warriors.
“These are the small group of very active users that share their options, and are seen as experts of their own fiefdom. People all too often look for these small groups of followers, but also look for those they disagree with that they can egg on. In both cases, you have situations where if someone says the world is flat there are those ready to drive off the roadway. Even when they are wrong, their voice may be the loudest.”