Students Charged in Vandalism of Abolitionist's Statue

December 18, 2018

St. John Fisher College said two of its students were charged in the vandalism of a statue of Frederick Douglass near downtown Rochester, N.Y.

Authorities said the students severely damaged the 6-foot, 7-inch statue while trying to steal it early Sunday.

John R. Boedicker, 20, of Endicott, N.Y., and Charles J. Milks, 21, of Kenmore, N.Y., were charged Sunday with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, The Democrat & Chronicle reported.

A witness, Timothy Myers, said he heard a commotion and saw four or five people around the statue. "I was yelling at them, saying, 'That’s ridiculous, why are you guys doing that? You guys need to stop,'" WHAM-TV reported. "They were shaking it up, yelling, screaming. Eventually they broke it loose, then they ran that way and carried it along."

The cast epoxy resin piece by Rochester artist Olivia Kim is one of a series of 13 placed throughout Rochester in celebration of the bicentennial of the abolitionist's birth. The vandalized piece was installed at the site of a seminary where Douglass enrolled his eldest daughter, Rosetta, then withdrew her after finding she was placed in segregated classes, The Democrat & Chronicle reported.

"We share the outrage that members of the Rochester community feel about this incident," St. John Fisher president Gerard Rooney said in a statement. He said the students would be held accountable but didn't provide further details.

Both men pleaded not guilty Monday in Rochester City Court. The pair are due back in court next month in the case.

They also apologized, telling WHAM that they would help repair the statue.

"We did a terrible thing and dismantled something that means a lot to so many people," Boedicker said.

Milks said he had "already contacted the historical society and the sculptor in order to help right this wrong."

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