While most Americans were eating turkey and stuffing at whatever kind of socially-distanced gathering their state government would allow, “peaceful protesters” — who never spread the coronavirus, apparently — toppled statues and spray-painted anti-Thanksgiving messages to celebrate the holiday. Vandals targeted statues of President William McKinley in Chicago, a veterans monument in Portland, an Abraham Lincoln statue in Spokane, Wash., and two statues in Minneapolis: one of George Washington and another celebrating pioneers.
“Stop colinization [sic]. End Thanksgiving. F**k 12,” vandals spray-painted on the plinth of the Washington statue in Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis. The vandals targeted the statue either late on Wednesday night or early on Thanksgiving morning.
A George Washington statue in South Minneapolis’ Washburn Fair Oaks Park was toppled this morning.
“Stop colonization,” “end Thanksgiving,” & “fuck 12” was scrawled into the mantel which held the statue.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 27, 2020
A group organizing under the Pan-Indigenous People’s Liberation (PIPL) network took credit for the vandalism, which they said was part of a “national decolonial day of action.”
A few miles away from the Washington statue, vandals also targeted a large granite monument to pioneers in the city’s B.F. Nelson Park. Vandals spray-painted the messages, “no thanks,” “no more genocide,” decolonize,” and “land back” on the statue, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers promised, “We will start removing the paint as soon as we can.”
Both a George Washington and "Pioneer Statue" were vandalized during the Thanksgiving holiday in Minneapolis. The Washington was knocked over and splattered with paint. The Minneapolis Park and Rec. board is working to "address and respond using a racial equity lens" (WCCO) pic.twitter.com/yGD0nymLPP
— WDBJ7 (@WDBJ7) November 27, 2020
“Land back” seemingly refers to The LANDBACK campaign, a Native American movement supposedly fighting “white supremacy.” The campaign calls for the dismantling of the “white supremacy structures” supposedly responsible for removing Native Americans from their lands, including the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service; for the defunding of “white supremacy” in the forms of the police, the military-industrial complex, Border Patrol, and ICE; a “return” of “all public lands back into Indigenous hands”; and a policy of “consent.”
This iconoclasm is nothing new. While it began with Confederate monuments, this summer vandals progressed to targeting America’s heroes, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Then came Mahatma Gandhi, Union General Ulysses S. Grant, black Union soldiers, and freed slave Frederick Douglass. Vandals even attacked a monument to 9/11 firefighters and painted a statue of Jesus black.
However, targeting patriotic symbols just before Thanksgiving seems particularly disgusting.
Early on Wednesday morning, police prevented vandals from toppling a statue of President William McKinley in a Chicago park. The vandals tethered a rope to a police car and spray-painted the statue with the words “Land Back,” NBC 5 Chicago reported. Activists have condemned McKinley, who served as president from 1897 to his death in 1901, as a racist because he championed westward expansion.
— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) November 28, 2020
Vandals in Spokane, Wash., spilled red paint on a statue of Abraham Lincoln in an attack that may or may not have been related to the “Land Back” campaign.
Someone is not feeling so thankful on this holiday as the Abe Lincoln statue on Main & Monroe in Downtown Spokane has now been vandalized.
— Maher Kawash (@MaherKXLY) November 26, 2020
In Portland, the antifa group Youth Liberation Front called for “a decentralized, anti-colonial day of action on Thanksgiving eve,” with the message, “F**k Thanksgiving, F**k Black Friday!”
The Youth Liberation Front, an antifa group, was one of several who incited violence in Portland to oppose Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/o4HlkvKaZZ
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) November 27, 2020
An antifa mob broke windows and sprayed graffiti, including the phrase “Land Back.” Portland police arrested three suspects.
The antifa radicals targeted a veterans’ monument at Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery. Vandals spray-painted, “F**k USA,” and “Eat sh*t, colonizers!” on the Soldiers Monument Statue, unveiled in 1903 to honor soldiers of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-American War, and the Indian Wars.
“Fu** USA” graffitied on the base of a statue that was toppled in Lone Fir Cemetery sometime this morning. The statue was erected in 1902, in honor of Indian, Spanish-American, Mexican, and Civil War Veterans. #PDX #Portland pic.twitter.com/iOy7T2vD7z
— Independent Media PDX (@NDpendentPDX) November 26, 2020
Antifa rioters also spray-painted, “F**k Thanksgiving” underneath an ATM.
Overnight many businesses on Hawthorne Blvd. in southeast Portland were defaced with BLM, antifa & other far-left messages. Antifa earlier this week gave instructions on how to scout out & attack locations for Thanksgiving. #antifa pic.twitter.com/zCFAkPvvAU
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) November 26, 2020
Such Thanksgiving attacks on national symbols make perverse sense in light of the Black Lives Matter riots this past summer, the Marxist critical race theory promoted by The New York Times‘ “1619 Project,” and the impact of organizations like the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Just before Thanksgiving, the SPLC published an article entitled, “Indigenous Slavery and the Thanksgiving Difference.” In that article, Harvard University professor Tiya Miles argues that “Thanksgiving is a holiday long past due for an overhaul.”
Miles claims that the mythology of the first Thanksgiving “is based on a misunderstanding of the early relationships between Wampanoag residents and the English newcomers at Massachusetts Bay.” She notes that Tisquantum (popularly known as Squanto) served as a translator between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims, having learned English during his capture and enslavement in England.
She also notes that the Wampanoag leader Pumetacom allied with the Narragansetts and Nipmucks in a war against the colonists that ended in the natives’ defeat. “Thousands would be killed or sold into slavery in the conflict, which ended Indigenous independence in New England. It is no wonder that some Native American families see Thanksgiving as a day of mourning,” she writes.
Much of the history between Native Americans and European settlers is indeed tragic, but leftist narratives often deprive the victims of their agency. Tisquantum, for instance, appears to have been plotting to overthrow the Wampanoag leader before Tisquantum’s untimely death, and his machinations likely contributed to the ultimate Puritan victory. History is far messier than the simple narrative of evil European colonialism and “white supremacy” suggests.
Americans should reexamine our history, but the nefarious message of Marxist critical race theory suggests we should upend society in order to satisfy historical grievances in the name of racial justice. This toxic vision undermines the very real progress America has made in terms of establishing civil rights regardless of race and in terms of securing broad prosperity through a free market economy.
Americans have a great deal for which to be thankful, even in the midst of a pandemic. Rather than railing against the supposed oppressors who established and celebrated Thanksgiving, these vandals should consider just how indebted they are to the system that provides peace and prosperity to the United States.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.