A new sculpture honoring Breonna Taylor in downtown Oakland, California, was smashed to chunks over the weekend, and police are investigating it as an act of vandalism.
The bust of Taylor, a Black woman whose fatal shooting by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March prompted national protests over racial justice and chants of “say her name,” had been installed only two weeks earlier in Oakland’s Latham Square.
Leo Carson, who sculpted the bust, said that he has visited the square several times since the work was found defaced on Saturday and that it appears to be an “act of racist aggression.”
“Art matters, and these vandals know it,” Carson said. “That’s why they felt compelled to attack her, and it’s the same reason anti-racist protesters have been tearing down statues of Confederate generals.”
Paul Chambers, an Oakland police spokesman, confirmed Monday that the incident is considered vandalism.
Carson said it took him several months to design and construct the bust out of ceramic, working on it during the pandemic after losing his restaurant job. He recently posted a picture with the bust on Instagram.
He said he was following the news reports about Taylor and wanted to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
After months of public outcry after Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed in a police raid on her apartment and calls for the three officers involved to be arrested, a grand jury in September declined to directly charge them in her death. One of the three officers was fired in June and has been charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment related to firing into several apartments during the raid.
“Tragically, there are thousands of victims of police violence that I could have chosen,” Carson said. “Breonna’s case, where the only charge against the officers responsible for her killing was for the bullets that missed, damaging the wall behind her, is such a potent illustration of everything wrong with our system that values property over life.”
As of Monday, a GoFundMe campaign to recreate the sculpture surpassed its $5,000 goal. Carson said he is donating the additional money to Taylor’s family.
A new bust will take several months to complete, but Carson said he anticipates it won’t be so easily destroyed again: He plans to use bronze this time.