The controversial “Occupy” movement has left in its wake a good deal of debate, discussion and polarized opinion wherever it has made the case for its vision of social justice.
|(Left) CLASS WAR graffiti statement on the park’s statue, Naked Truth. (Right) Graffiti tagging in St. Louis’ historic Compton Hill Reservoir Park.|
In the last week in St. Louis, graffiti vandalism on historically significant structures has only added to the inflamed feelings and divergent viewpoints about Occupy, its members and its alleged antagonists.
The graffiti appeared on a century-old statue, buildings and reservoir walls in Compton Hill Reservoir Park, a historic site in the city and the epicenter of a confrontation between Occupy members and police last week. More than a dozen Occupy protesters were arrested and two were injured in that confrontation. The protesters were part of a gathering of Occupy Midwest activists for a regional conference.
The graffiti included the statements “CLASS WAR,” “COPS, PIGS, MURDERERS” and “ONLY THE BLOOD OF THE RICH WILL STOP OCCUPY.”
Representatives of Occupy sought to distance the group from any official or direct involvement in the graffiti. One member of the group, however, told a local newspaper that the graffiti reflects “anger and frustration” about the movement’s conflicts with authorities.
Meanwhile, the president of the Compton Hill Water Tower and Park Preservation Society told reporters that a representative of the Occupy movement had apologized for the graffiti and said the movement does not endorse such vandalism.
The preservation society president, John Maxwell, said the CLASS WAR statement spray painted on the historic statue, Naked Truth, would require careful removal procedures due to the need to avoid damage to the surface patina.
An Occupy member discusses the graffiti in this video, which also shows the park site and measures being taken to remove graffiti.
A local alternative newspaper, The Riverfront Times, observed that in the case of the statue, the taggers had directed their aim at the wrong target if they were trying to protest social injustice or inequality.
“Here’s the problem with that,” the newspaper said in a story on the graffiti. “Spray painting ‘Class War’ on the statue, The Naked Truth, is akin to painting ‘Serene Pacifism’ on a statue of Dick Cheney.”
The story went on to explain that the German-American Alliance made a gift of the statue to the people of St. Louis in 1914, to honor the memories of Carl Schurz, Emil Preetorius and Carl Daenzer, the three German-American editors of St. Louis’ onetime crusading German-language newspaper, the Westliche Post.
The three had fled their native Germany due to their political views, which included staunch opposition to slavery and inequality of any kind. Schurz later went on to become a Union general in the Civil War, a U.S. senator and U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
|The historic water tower in Compton Hill Reservoir Park. The tower is a National Historic Landmark.|
Compton Hill Reservoir Park is the site of a public-water reservoir built in the 19th century. The Compton Hill Water Tower, also located in the park, was built in 1898 and is one of only seven surviving stand-pipe water towers in the U.S.; three of those seven are located in St. Louis. The Compton Hill Tower is a National Historic Landmark.