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Oakland: Artist vows to restore smashed, then stolen Breonna Taylor sculpture

OAKLAND — In the wake of the theft of a Breonna Taylor sculpture installed earlier this month and vandalized over the weekend in downtown’s Latham Square, the sculptor on Tuesday promised to rebuild it.

Standing in front of bags of concrete and bottles of water ready to mix in a metal tub, Leo Carson placed bouquets of flowers atop the standard where the sculpture had stood before insisting on linking his artwork sustained with the resilience of social-justice movements around the Bay Area and beyond.

Identifying himself as an unemployed server and “a member of the growing socialist movement around the country,” Carson said the bust’s destruction and removal “created waves that captured the attention of media all over the world. Millions more now have heard of Breonna Taylor. And this was a victory for our movement.”

OAKLAND, CA – DECEMBER 27: A broken bust of Breonna Taylor is photographed on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Oakland Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

“Last night, the racists returned, and they removed the remaining sculpture bust. This is what’s here now,” Carson added, directly addressing whoever took it away.

“I want this to be a symbol of joy for Breonna Taylor. No matter what they do, we can rebuild it. When you mess with a sculptor, I know how to build things. You can’t defeat that. There’s millions of us, and there’s few of you. This proves that this was not a one-off event of drunk racists, but a coordinated effort to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. We are not going away, and nor is this space we have secured for Breonna Taylor’s memory.”

The sculpture was installed Dec. 12 in the square’s north end in front of the wedge-shaped Cathedral Building, one of many landmark sites bordering or visible from the city’s historic district.

Over the long Christmas weekend, Carson and others learned the sculpture had been vandalized and soon began a GoFundMe fund-raising campaign that had taken in more than $22,000 to replace it.

On Tuesday, he said its replacement could take months to craft, first in clay based on Taylor’s likeness and then cast in bronze.

“That shows the incredible solidarity of people, not just locally but all across the country and probably in the world, I will use that money to rebuild it. I’m keeping receipts, I’m not going to be profiting off of this at all. My books will be completely open, everybody will be able to see what I’m spending money on, and after the process is all finished. The remainder will go to the family, and the vast majority of donations have been $25, or less.”

The vandalism comes months after massive protests sparked across the Bay Area in large part by the killings of Taylor —  by police executing a “no-knock” warrant during a Louisville, Ky., drug raid — and of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

While all three police officers involved in Floyd’s killing were charged, in September grand jurors brought only one indictment against Det. Myles Cosgrove who shot Taylor, for reckless use of his firearm. Cosgrove was charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment.” The two other officers who shot Taylor were not charged, but news outlets shared word Tuesday that Cosgrove and Det. Joshua Jaynes, who prepared the search warrant for the raid on Taylor’s home, had received termination letters.

OAKLAND, CA – DECEMBER 29: Oakland Unified School District Board Member Mike Hutchinson speaks during a news conference from the site of a sculpture honoring Breonna Taylor that was vandalized and then stolen from its location at Latham Square in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. Carson plans to rebuild the sculpture. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Incoming Oakland Unified School District board member Mike Hutchinson also spoke on Tuesday, centering his own experiences as a native Oaklander and Black community member far too familiar with displacement and a sense of disregard from local leadership.

“I really thank the artists and the community for putting this here in the first place, but we got to do much better,” Hutchinson said.

“The school district has handed out over a million meals during this pandemic. But the story that hasn’t been told is, why do we need a million meals in Oakland, California, in this rich city?”

For Hutchinson, the memorial for Taylor carries resonances beyond Taylor’s life and after-life.

“She is another in a long list of names that I’ll never forget now. You know, as we’ve seen other parts of America wake up to the idea of Black Lives Matter and the threat of random violence that we’ve always faced. It’s been a good thing. That’s what this monument represents,” he said.

“We’ve always known about it, you know. We’ve had Bobby Hutton Park since before I was born. The threat of being killed by police has always been an ongoing threat. We saw how Oakland responded during Oscar Grant. This monument could have easily been made to Yuvette Henderson, a sister who was killed by police right on the Oakland-Emeryville border years ago.”

Staff writer Aldo Toledo contributed to this report. Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.

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Author: George Kelly

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