One of the more unlikely targets of George Floyd protests has been Christopher Columbus statues. The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston was beheaded. The figurine in Richmond dedicated the 15th-century explorer was ripped down and dragged into the lake. In Rhode Island, a Columbus statue was vandalized, and the culprit was a social studies teacher.
Three people were arrested for vandalizing a Christopher Columbus statue in Providence early Saturday morning. One of the perpetrators was Derrick Garforth, a 34-year-old social studies teacher at the Jenks Middle School in Pawtucket, according to WPRI-TV.
“Around 1:25 a.m., they saw a gray Honda Accord with Massachusetts plates driving in the area with its lights off and three people inside,” a Providence Police Department news release stated. “After making a couple of passes, the car drove away, but a few minutes later, a man and a woman ran across Elmwood Avenue and, when they reached a fence protecting the statue, hurled unknown objects toward it.”
A fence was recently added to the perimeter of the statue after there were threats of vandalism. White and purple paint was found splattered on the makeshift fence as well as the Columbus statue.
Police spotted a man and woman running in Columbus Square. The suspects got into a car, but police tracked them down. Inside the car was Garforth, along with Charlotte Whittingham, 28, and the driver Mackenzie Innis, 26. Cops also found rubber gloves and open containers of white and purple paint inside the vehicle.
All three suspects were charged with desecration of a grave or monument and conspiracy.
Pawtucket Superintendent Cheryl McWilliams said that Garforth is out on leave pending an investigation. “I have just learned about this and the Pawtucket School Department is investigating it,” McWilliams said in an email.
Last October, a 5th-grade teacher wore a sweatshirt that read: “Columbus was a murderer.” She said she wore the shirt to “spark discussion.”