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Two Local College Students Arrested for Vandalizing Frederick Douglass Statue

Alexander and Tracy Streets where the Frederick Douglass Statue stood. Photo by Deva Jackson

By Staff –

Two students from St. John Fisher College have been arrested Sunday and accused of vandalizing and attempting to steal a statue of Frederick Douglass.

John R. Boedicker, 20, of Endicott, Broome County, and Charles J. Milks, 21, of Kenmore, a suburb of Buffalo, were charged Sunday with misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Witnesses say the men knocked down the statue which sits on the corner of Alexander and Tracy Streets and tried to drag it away while shouting racial slurs.

St. John Fisher College president, Gerard Rooney, issued a statement Sunday:

“The College learned earlier this evening through various media reports that Fisher students were allegedly involved in vandalism of a statue honoring the legacy of Frederick Douglass in the City of Rochester. This behavior goes against who we are and who we strive to be.

We share the outrage that members of the Rochester community feel about this incident. St. John Fisher College expects all members of our campus community to conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is consistent with the values articulated in our mission statement and in the Fisher Creed. Those who engage in behavior that may violate these standards are held accountable through our appropriate internal processes.

I want to assure our campus community and the community at large that respect, open-mindedness, and integrity are of the utmost importance to the College, and we pledge to continue to demonstrate our commitment to these values to all members of the greater Rochester community and our own campus community.

Given this reported incident, we recognize the need to redouble our efforts to promote these values and expectations and continue to educate our campus community around issues of diversity and race.

St. John Fisher College has always cooperated fully with members of the law enforcement community, and will do so in addressing this matter.”

Earlier Sunday, Carvin Eison, president of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee issued the following statement in regard to the incident:

“People around the area are devastated to learn the news of the attempted theft and severe damage to the statue of Frederick Douglass last night. We wish that we could write this off as an immature act of vandalism, but sadly, the witness to the theft reports that hateful racial epithets were used by those responsible. We find that incredibly sad.

Throughout the course of this year-long celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass, and specifically his life and legacy here in Rochester, we have repeatedly talked about how the statues of Douglass that have been placed around the community have brought people together. In fact, more than 100 schools, colleges, universities, fraternal organizations, arts organizations, museums, churches, neighbor groups, elected officials, artists and other individuals have spent the past year in celebration of Douglass. Just a week ago, a sold-out audience came together at Hochstein to remember Douglass, and hear from noted historian David Blight and members of the Douglass family. This demonstration of unity speaks volumes more about who we are than the hateful acts of these individuals.

The easy response, the human response, is anger. But I encourage this community to rise above the anger and disappointment, and turn this into a teachable moment — as Douglass would have wanted us to do. The statue at the corner of Alexander and Tracy Streets will be replaced as quickly as it can possibly be done. We will not give in to hatred.

On behalf of the entire Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee, we want to say thanks to the witness who quickly called the police. Thanks to the Rochester Police Department for their quick response, and to all those who have reached out with words of support.”

The statue, one of 13 in the area, was installed earlier this year.

Douglass lived in Rochester and is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

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