The Wilkesboro Police Department is requesting the public’s assistance in determining the person or persons responsible for vandalizing a statue and monument on Wilkes Heritage Museum Inc. property near North Street.
The Col. Benjamin Cleveland statue on the north side of the Capt. Robert Cleveland log home and a nearby monument honoring Confederate veterans in front of the Old Wilkes Jail were vandalized with red spray paint Friday night or early Saturday morning.
Wilkesboro officers are actively investigating the incident but have no suspects, said Police Chief Craig Garris. “We’re asking for the public’s help. If anyone has any information about this, we’d like to hear from you,” added Garris.
He said people with information can call the Wilkesboro Police Department at 336-667-7277 or Wilkes Crime Stoppers at 336-667-8900. Crime Stoppers callers can be anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.
Town Manager Ken Noland said officials are looking into the existence of security video of the crime scene area.
“Attack” was painted across the front of the Confederate veterans’ memorial and red paint was sprayed on a depiction of the Confederate battle flag at the top of the granite monument.
“Genocide” was painted across the front and back of the rectangular base of the concrete Cleveland statue, which depicts the Revolutionary War leader with his sword raised. “No” was painted on the other two sides of the base. Red paint was sprayed elsewhere, including apparently as letters.
The nonprofit Wilkes Heritage Museum Inc., (originally Old Wilkes Inc.) oversees the Cleveland statue and the Confederate veterans’ memorial.
Wilkes Heritage Museum Director Jennifer Furr said a citizen voluntarily removed the paint from the Confederate veterans’ memorial by 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Furr said it’s harder to remove paint from concrete than from granite so cleaning up the Cleveland statue is more of a challenge. She added that representatives of companies in the area said they would take on the job at no charge.
She also said there are plans to talk to town officials about installing security lights in the area where the vandalism occurred and that citizens already said they would donate security cameras for the area.
George Childers, chairman of the Wilkes Heritage Museum board, said in a letter to the editor to The Wilkes Journal-Patriot that the person or persons responsible for the vandalism must be full of hate and should get help.
Childers added, “To write the word ‘genocide’ on the statue is a threat to all of our citizens. To come in under the cover of darkness and attack a symbol of this nature is a true sign of a coward.”
Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore released a statement saying he was deeply troubled by the vandalism and added that this type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.
“I fully agree that everyone has the right of freedom to express their opinions. However, this type of action created consequences which cross over the legal line of correctness,” said Inscore.
He noted that people can and should voice their opinions in an “open mike” period during each regular monthly meeting of the Wilkesboro Town Council, with the council not responding.
“We welcome an open dialog where issues can be heard and outcomes are mutually beneficial.”
The Cleveland statue was sculpted by Ralph J. Williams, Robert Mayer, Noah Boland and Bobby Foster, using powdered clay mixed with concrete over chicken wire and metal rods. It was dedicated on Nov. 23, 1975.
The Confederate veterans’ memorial was placed by the Gen. James B. Gordon Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1998.