Statues and monuments related to the Confederacy have been vandalized and toppled in recent days across the country, and now a memorial has been destroyed in a church cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The memorial marked the graves of 17 Confederate soldiers, many unidentified. It was spray painted earlier in the week and then toppled over Wednesday night by vandals at Grace Episcopal Church.
“We can’t erase history,” said Robert Mosko, conservator for the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, a statewide nonprofit organization that works to protect burial sites. “It’s illegal and it’s very sad.”
The church was founded in 1855.
In 1864, Confederate troops invaded Maryland and were stopped by Union soldiers at Fort Stevens. The 17 Confederate soldiers were among those who died in that battle.
“We understand and reject the central cause of slavery for which Confederate soldiers fought,” the church said in a statement on its website. “We also understand that these soldiers received a Christian burial in consecrated ground. We know that we must be true to our past and learn from it, both the good and the bad.”
Mosko said the destruction of the memorial reminded him of “a feeding frenzy for sharks.”
Confederate monuments have been rallying points and sites of clashes with police during demonstrations that began following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, pressed a knee into his neck while he pleaded for air.
In Virginia, statues of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham as well as of Christopher Columbus were toppled by vandals.
Grace Church has so far has decided not to file a police report following the vandalism.
The Rev. Richard Kukowski, interim rector at the church, empathized with the Black Lives Matter movement, saying the church will host an event Sunday.
“We’re going to be putting up a large Black Lives Matter banner on the corner of the Grace Church property,” he said. “We’ll be conducting a protest in response to the murder of George Floyd and in commemoration of Juneteenth.”
Juneteenth — officially Friday, June 19 — is the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.