Community members gather fallen T-shirts with names to be put back up Wednesday afternoon
By Bert Etling, Ashland.news
Hundreds of T-shirts making up the Say Their Names memorial in Ashland’s Railroad Park were torn down sometime late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning. People came to the park Wednesday morning to collect, straighten and clean the shirts with the plan to return at 3:30 p.m. to rehang them.
“We are going to be there and we are going to put our fence back up,” Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne said in a phone call to a reporter Wednesday morning.
The memorial of T-shirts with names on them — a first a few, then dozens and eventually more than 100 — began in June 2020, “in recognition of the passing of Oregon’s Lash Laws, and in the aftermath of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” according to the website of BASE Southern Oregon (Black Alliance & Social Empowerment).
The Ashland Police Department responded to Railroad Park Wednesday morning and is asking anyone with information about who is responsible to contact the department by phone at 541-482-5211, or call the anonymous tip line at 541-552-2333, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Park previously hit by vandals
The Golden Connections sculpture in Railroad Park was vandalized shortly before its dedication in April 2022. Painted graffiti defaced the sculpture, which commemorates the completion of the nationwide railroad circuit in Ashland in 1887 and pays tribute to the thousands of Chinese railroad workers who made it possible, and an adjacent sidewalk.
The April 2022 vandalism drew widespread attention. Sen. Jeff Merkley called it “part of the trend of increasing hate crimes against Asian-Americans across the U.S.,” he wrote in a statement. “It is painful to recognize that same hatred faced by the workers who built this railway more than hundred years ago persists today. We have work to do to recognize and root out bigotry, to reaffirm that discrimination has no place in our communities.”
A story about the vandalism to the Golden Connections sculpture appeared on the China Global Television Network, which reaches more than 100 countries.
Vandals also struck at the southeast end of Railroad Park in February 2017, spraying antisemitic graffiti on a utility box by the railroad tracks, only about 500 feet from the Havurah Synagogue across the tracks. The box was oversprayed in white by Ashland police later in the day, and a third time with a red heart with the words “Stop Hate” at the center.
Vandals have also twice torn up an informal memorial to slain Ashlander David Grubbs a half-mile southeast along the Central Bike Path, most recently in February 2022.
Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at email@example.com or call or text him at 541-631-1313.
Jan. 29 update: A photo caption was updated.