On Tuesday, a woman was captured on video in Portland, Oregon park, defacing the bust of the only Black man who traveled across North America with the Lewis & Clark expedition.
The unidentified woman seemed to be upset that the bust honoring a Black man named York, who was enslaved by William Clark, had taken the place of the statue of The Oregonian journalist Harvey Scott. In February, an unknown artist erected a marker for York in Mount Tabor Park, along with a makeshift plaque. The Harvey statue was toppled by one or more people in October after standing for 87 years.
“We’ve lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and always pondered why his statue was here,” resident Lara DiLiberti told KGW8 at the time. “He’s a sexist old white dude who doesn’t represent the values of Portland and so I am not sorry that the statue’s down.”
But the angry woman captured on video spray painting the statue honoring York seemed unimpressed by the work of the anonymous artist.
“It’s love and unity, not to replace a white man with a f—ing Black man. That’s not f—ing unity,” she said, cursing throughout in a 54-second video shared on Twitter.
The woman, who appears to say her first name is Jeannette, yells, “Come f-ckin arrest me!” while actively vandalizing the statue after someone sarcastically says “way to be part of the solution.” The woman’s name has not been confirmed.
“F-ck all of you,” she said, standing before the statue said in the video. “I’ve been prejudice against Black people and Hispanic people and everyone has. I’m sure you’ve been prejudice against people as well. I don’t give a f-ck, do whatever the f-ck you want,” the woman said, while holding cans of spray paint.
The woman removed the makeshift plaque from the bust and wrote “LOVE NOT HATE” on the side of the statue.
Twitter user @santoku said they encountered the woman while on a bike ride on June 8, and that the vandal didn’t provide a coherent reason for why they were destroying the bust. The user said the woman claimed York was “just a slave doing their job like they should, so why get a statue?”
Portland Parks & Recreation said they are working to remove the paint and determine the cost of the damage while Portland police are investigating the matter.
Images shared by @santoku on June 9, show that some of the paint has been washed away although the purple marks remained visible.
Between May 14, 1804, and Sept. 23, 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took part in an expedition after President Thomas Jefferson asked Lewis to explore the lands west of the Mississippi River that comprised the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis selected Clark as his co-leader.
While York, born sometime between 1770 and 1775, was compelled to embark on the travels by his owner, his role in the expedition was equal to that of the white men, according to Smithsonian Magazine. He carried a gun and regularly hunted buffalo, deer, and geese to feed the party during the 28-month journey.
According to Clark’s journal, when the men voted on where to spend the winter of 1805, York’s vote was counted as equal to that of the other men.
But York’s time on the expedition wasn’t without darker moments of racism. According to Clark’s journal, he encouraged the Nez Perce Native Americans they encountered to closely examine York, and goaded him to put on a performance, sometimes as a menacing monster, and other times as a benign dancing buffoon.