KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — It seems someone angry about Kalamazoo’s controversial Fountain of the Pioneers took matters into their own hands, defacing it with what appeared to be red paint.
The fountain in Bronson Park depicts an early white settler with a weapon in hand standing before a kneeling Native American.
Someone doused the settler figure with red paint. A fake tomahawk made of cardboard that also had red paint on it was thrust into the top of the fountain.
“Our parks staff was down in the park this morning just finishing up the last few things that we had for tree lighting along with our forestry department and noticed the defacing of the statue,” said Patrick McVerry, the deputy director of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation. “It was unfortunate to see that this morning but we worked as best we could to clean up before this evening’s festivities.”
Kalamazoo public safety officers worked to clean up the vandalism Friday, using a fire hose to try to wash the paint away. Police are investigating.
After crews hosed down the fountain, a few people gathered to share their views on it. Bystander Monica Washington Padula said she didn’t have a hand in the vandalism, but that it should be used as an opportunity to explain why it’s offensive to many native and indigenous people.
“It was placed here when we didn’t have a voice about how we were treated so that makes it oppressive, makes it racist,” she said.
When asked to respond to the argument that vandalism is not a productive way to advance the conversation about the fountain, Padula replied, “I feel like those people (who would say that) have the privilege of not being an oppressed people.”
“No matter how loud you say something or how persistently you say something, you’re not heard so sometimes the only way to be heard is to do something that creates a palpable impact,” she continued.
“It is a controversial subject,” McVerry said of the debate surrounding the fountain. “I think from our standpoint from the parks department, we’re leaving everything up to the commissioners and the public to discuss things.”
>>App users: Photos of the cleanup–24 Hour News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report.