RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Arthur Ashe monument in Richmond was vandalized early Monday morning.
The phrases “White Lives Matter” (WLM) and “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) were spray-painted on several areas of the monument.
When the vandalism was first spotted, only the “WLM” graffiti was there. Later, “BLM” was added over the top of that paint.
It was an unwelcome sight for Fatima Pashaei, who was just finishing up a tour of the monuments with friends:
”We were just coming around the bend and we noticed a guy in an American flag mask, and we saw him with a spray paint can. My breath stopped and we noticed he was writing ‘White Lives Matter',” she said,
She says the man eventually left, but returned after they had already grabbed cleaning supplies to work on the graffiti:
”[The paint] was coming off, and he got upset and he said ‘Well, if we’re going to remove white lives matter, then I’m going to remove black lives matter,” she added. Cell phone video shows the man getting a wet cloth from the trunk of his car, then approaching the statue before beginning to scrub some of the “BLM” painted on.
But even in rain, a handful of people continued to scrub off the paint.
“My arms are a little tired, but that really doesn’t matter. I just wanted to restore it as much as possible. Arthur Ashe is a pillar, not just for Richmond, but nationwide and internationally,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, who helped with the scrubbing.
The incident drew crowds of people, including Paul Dispasquale, the artist behind this sculpture who says he was touched by the compassion towards his work, calling it “moving in a number of ways.”
He says he wished the statue would not get vandalized like this, but points out the significance of the painted messages as it relates to Ashe:
“The purpose of putting the monument up in the first place was because all people matter, and that was certainly Arthur Ashe’s message. So it’s appropriate that those two messages are around it,” he added.
The Arthur Ashe monument is located on Monument Avenue, among several Confederate statues that have been vandalized recently.
Ashe was an athlete, an activist and most importantly, a true gentleman whose life on and off the tennis court continues to impact the world, even almost 30 years after his death.
In 1960, he became the first African American to win the National Junior Indoor Tennis Tournament. He eventually went on to become the first black player selected for the U.S. Davis Cup team and the only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open.
The quiet, 6-foot-1 phenom became a household name all over the world.
RPD says they are investigating and are pursuing a lead.
The monument was fully free of graffiti as of Wednesday afternoon.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.