Say Their Names memorial along fence at Railroad Park vandalized

A bicyclist dodges flowers pulled down from the memorial fence on Wednesday morning. T-shirts that had been on the ground are draped over the fence at the right. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news
January 25, 2023

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.

A photo taken in Railroad Park in April 2021 shows memorial T-shirts lining the fence along the Central Bike Path. Ashland.news photo by Bert Etling

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 tipline@ashland.or.us.

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 betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

Jan. 29 update: A photo caption was updated.

Some of the T-shirts on the memorial fence in April 2022. Ashland.news photo by Bert Etling
City of Ashland employee Fernando Rendon rakes up flowers strewn on the Central Bike Path at Railroad Park sometime overnight by a vandal who pulled down the T-shirts in the Say Their Names memorial. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news
On Wednesday morning, community members straighten T-shirts strewn on the ground by a vandal at Railroad Park. Drew Fleming photo for Ashland.news
A utility box by the railroad tracks at the southeast end of Railroad Park in Ashland was painted at least three times in February 2017 — the first by a person who wrote antisemitic graffiti, the second by police who whited it out, and the third time by someone with red paint who drew a heart with “stop hate” at its center. Ashland.news photo by Bert Etling

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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