Chicago statue of Abraham Lincoln vandalized to protest 1862 death of Native Americans: 'Colonizer'

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Vandals desecrated a famous statue of President Abraham Lincoln in Chicago’s Lincoln Park on Monday, claiming they want “to tear down the myth of Lincoln as great liberator.”

The vandalism, which Chicago police said took place around 12:30 p.m., consisted of red paint dumped on “Abraham Lincoln: The Man,” a famous 12-foot bronze statue completed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1887.

Vandals also spray-painted graffiti on the base of the statue that said, “Dethrone the Colonizers,” “Land Back!” and “Avenge the Dakota 38.” They also posted sheets of paper listing the names of 38 Dakota men whose execution Lincoln approved in 1862.

An anonymous group that refers to themselves as “resistors [sic] of colonial violence” took credit for the vandalism, claiming in a press release that they aimed to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day by drawing attention to Lincoln signing off on the public hanging of the 38 men during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, or “Sioux Uprising.”

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Vandals desecrated a famous statue of President Abraham Lincoln in Chicago's Lincoln Park on Monday, claiming they want "to tear down the myth of Lincoln as great liberator."

Vandals desecrated a famous statue of President Abraham Lincoln in Chicago’s Lincoln Park on Monday, claiming they want “to tear down the myth of Lincoln as great liberator.”
(Dethrone the Colonizers)

The armed conflict between the U.S. and several bands of eastern Dakota raged for six weeks in southwestern Minnesota during the height of the Civil War after four young Dakota men attacked and killed five settlers. 

The war left 358 settlers, 77 U.S. soldiers and 29 volunteer militia members dead. The number of Dakota casualties is unknown.

“The Sioux uprising was in response to the U.S. government’s refusal to make payments promised to Dakota tribes in exchange for land they were forced to cede in treaties signed in the mid-1850s,” the group claimed. “The Sioux were facing starving and great hardship due to a harsh winter, crop failure, having been forced onto two small reservations, and the government’s failure to compensate.”

Vandals also spray-painted graffiti on the base that said, "Dethrone the Colonizers," "Land Back!" and "Avenge the Dakota 38."

Vandals also spray-painted graffiti on the base that said, “Dethrone the Colonizers,” “Land Back!” and “Avenge the Dakota 38.”
(Dethrone the Colonizers)

The group claimed the 38 Dakota men were executed following a “sham” military trial, adding that “Lincoln chose to execute the Dakota 38 to cater to White settler communities’ demands for racist violence.”

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The group also said they “seek to expose colonizer monuments across Chicago & Turtle Island: Columbus, Balbo, Sheridan, Lincoln, McKinley, Grant, and beyond.” They also “seek to tear down the myth of Lincoln as great liberator and expose his complicity in the genocide of Indigenous peoples and theft of their lands.”

As of Tuesday, Chicago police had not yet taken anyone into custody for the vandalism.

Graffiti at the base of the Lincoln statue in Chicago reads "Avenge the Dakota 38," referencing the 38 Dakota men whose execution Lincoln approved in 1862.

Graffiti at the base of the Lincoln statue in Chicago reads “Avenge the Dakota 38,” referencing the 38 Dakota men whose execution Lincoln approved in 1862.
(Dethrone the Colonizers)

Despite his role as the Great Emancipator, statues of Lincoln have faced some of the same threats as those depicting Confederate figures and other slave owners. The Lincoln Park statue in Chicago had been one of several the city had listed for review amid calls for a racial reckoning, though it was ultimately determined that Lincoln should remain.

The vandals posted sheets of paper listing the names of 38 Dakota men whose execution Lincoln approved in 1862.

The vandals posted sheets of paper listing the names of 38 Dakota men whose execution Lincoln approved in 1862.
(Dethrone the Colonizers)

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In 2020, another Lincoln statue was similarly vandalized in Portland, Oregon. During the same year, police in Washington, D.C., barricaded a statue of the former president near Capitol Hill amid reports that protesters were planning to rip down the monument, which had been erected with fundraising by freed slaves.

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