Iconic and controversial statues at the University of Texas were hit with graffiti overnight. The acts of vandalism come as an open forum on race relations is to be held later Tuesday night.
The graffiti was found Tuesday morning just as summer classes were about to begin. Students who passing by - stopped to take pictures of the vandalism that most who spoke to me viewed as extreme.
"I think that an anonymous act is not the way we need to go about this," said UT Junior Christina Gatti.
Senior Dominique Gonzales had similar concerns.
"Defiling public property is not right, but people are going to be aware of it, people are going to notice that and that's something you can not ignore," said Gonzalez.
"Black lives matter," was spray painted on the granite and limestone bases of statues for Robert E. Lee. Albert Sidney Johnston and Jefferson Davis. The three confederates have little to no link with the University of Texas. The graffiti on the Davis statue also included the words, "bump all the chumps," a reference to a campaign that recently got underway to remove the statutes.
"I understand what they were trying to convey with this, and what UT should do to understand the way students are feeling right now, especially with this climate," said U.T. Alumni Jocelyn Elder.
Organizers of the removal effort condemned the vandalism as being counter-productive . Later in the day, U.T. President Greg Fenves announced a new study group will come up with suggestions on what to do with the Davis Statue. The group of students, faculty members and alumni will be led by Dr. Gregory Vincent, V.P. for Diversity and Community Engagement. There is no hard timetable set for when the recommendations will be submitted to Fenves.
"And we want to make sure that we strike the right balance and we do the right thing the right way," said Dr. Vincent.
But there are students - like one identified on twitter as Yung Mozart @XeneSky who stated, "I am in support of the graffiti as well as removing these confederate symbols from the university."
Another student, Tasnim Akhtar a Junior from Houston, sent a statement that read in part: " The act of vandalism on the Jeff Davis statue only replaces the values reflected by the statue … the vandalism has an incredibly way of giving opposing movements visibility."
By the noon hour all the graffiti was removed - but the racial tension that apparently brought the act about remaind. Addressing that is the focus of a town forum taking place Tuesday night. The meeting is being held at the Metropolitan African Methodist- Episcopal Church. Pastor N. Jordan Mkwanazi- recently spoke to FOX7 about what he hopes to accomplish.
"Its imperative it is a must that we all come together, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian to talk about how we improve race relationships in times like this," said Rev. Mkwanazi.
The meeting may not bring about an immediate change but it could help shift the focus. It could be something like a message left next to another on-campus statue. Tuesday at the base of the memorial to Dr. King maintenance workers found what appeared to be the remnants of a unity candle.
We do not condone the use of graffiti in the efforts of #NoDavisOnCampus and are working with administrators to make progress on this issue— UT Student Gov't (@UT_SG) June 23, 2015