Things I cannot accept is like the above. This is the tomb of the unknown soldier and a monument to Washington in Washington Square Park in Philadelphia. This is destruction that’s divisive. This location was actually one of the five original ideas for public parks/spaces drawn up by William Penn in his plans for Philadelphia.
As per USHistory.org this park at first wasn’t used as a park. It was used as a potter’s field. This started around 1706 and apparently continued for many decades.
By 1778 Washington Square was one of the last barracks for the thousands of soldiers who died in Philadelphia. It has been remarked by historians that while a lot of battles did not take place within the city a lot of dying of soldiers did. And these are the soldiers who were fighting for the freedoms that we enjoy today including our rights to assemble and protest.
📌“Those wounded in nearby battles, or those sick with disease would be brought to Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Hospital and the Bettering House for the Poor filled quickly. Churches became ad-hoc hospitals. And during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the Walnut Street Jail became a Dantesque vision of hell...In 1793, the square once again served as a mass graveyard — this time for wracked, malodorous victims of the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic. Philadelphia was literally decimated by this epidemic: about 5,000 of Philadelphia’s 50,000 residents were taken by the Aedes mosquito. 📌- USHistory.org
Into the 19th century, Washington Square stopped functioning as a cemetery and people started to look to make it what it was originally intended to be -a town square and park. 1825 it was renamed in the honor of George Washington who was the commander-in-chief of all those soldiers who laid buried underground in unmarked graves.
In 1954 a committee was formed for the betterment of Washington Square. apparently they did archaeological excavations and that is how they found their unknown soldier.
The tomb and monument were built and the statue of George Washington is a replica of Jean Antoine Houdon’s famous bronze sculpture of Washington. Sculpture was placed so that George Washington can forever gaze upon Independence Hall.
This memorial has many things carved into marble like “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness”. There is an eternal flame, and on the tomb of the unknown soldier we were taught a school children what it said: “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty.“
I was born in 1964 and this park was 10 years old at the time. I spent a lot of my young years going with my mother and my father and then my baby sister to this park. Lots of kids were in this park and we were all representative of different races, creeds, and colors. We respected the history of this hallowed ground.
When I was little they were always things going on in this park. There were amazing used book sales and plant sales. I remember my mother filling up our little grocery shopping cart with bags of books one year!
I have lots of very distinct memories throughout the years of this park. And I’ve always known and respected the history. Until this recent defacing of this monument and two I haven’t known anyone who didn’t respect the history.
There hasn’t been much talk of this getting defaced during all of these protests. There was a mention in the Philadelphia Inquirer which said 📌 “At Washington Square, the hallowed Tomb of the Unknown Solider of the American Revolution was defaced by spray paint. Vandals wrote Committed Genocide and ACAB — meaning, All Cops Are Bastards — on the granite wall behind Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bronze statue of Washington, the monument’s centerpiece.”📌
Not much more was said about this. I don’t recall Mayor Jim Kenney even talking about it. And that truly upsets me. It’s like it doesn’t matter that this happened there and it does matter a great deal. This is a location were soldiers who fought for our freedom as a young nation died and were laid to rest. It’s quite literally hallowed ground. My best guess is whoever did this will be haunted the rest of their lives. And the Park Service and Philadelphia need to put security cameras in there.
Above you see what the monument looks like in better times. If you look at the monument with the graffiti you will notice something else. Did you notice that the eternal flame is extinguished?
Washington Square Park is a special place. Hallowed ground. And the people who defaced it? That was just destruction. That is an a message that we need positive change in an end to systemic racism in this country, that was just graffiti and destruction.
I will state it again: I have no problem with peaceful protests. I completely believe that we are in the grips of insidious systemic racism in this country. But I do not believe the destruction of things like this accomplish anything at all. Destruction is negative.
If people want protest to be perceived as positive and necessary destruction cannot follow it. And that is the other thing that is so sad about all of this. The people protesting social injustice and racial inequality aren’t the people that are destroying these properties.
We need to be better as a nation. We need elected officials who aren’t as divisive. Which is why I pray for house cleaning in Washington DC this November. as human beings in this country we have to be the change we want to see.
It’s because of sights like this that protesting right now has concerned me.
I believe in peaceful protests, I do not believe in destruction of property.
We are better than this. We have to be better than this. We have to get things changed in this country. I don’t know that we will ever be able to erase hate because hate is as old as the beginning of time.
Please be careful out there this weekend if you are taking part in protests. Please start to think about how we can also be the change we need to see outside of protesting, because we have to be able to keep moving forward. We need to be positive change.
Please don’t let the hate and anger and vitriol win.