WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Should the Nathaniel Rochester statue be cleaned?

Jun 25, 2020
Originally published on June 24, 2020 3:26 pm

The Nathaniel Rochester statue on South Avenue was defaced about a week ago, and a group in the South Wedge neighborhood is grappling with what to do next. 

The statue was tagged with Black Lives Matter, its hands were painted red and the word "shame" was written on its forehead. Rochester, who the city is named after, owned slaves.

City spokesperson Patrick Flanigan said the statue will be cleaned as soon as possible, “in a manner that will not damage it.” The city has a program called the Defacer Eraser that removes graffiti around the community.

But should it be cleaned?

Frank Logan says not yet. He’s lived in the South Wedge for nearly 40 years and is president of the South Wedge Planning Committee’s board. The planning committee helped secure the funds for Nathaniel Square Park. Logan said it was a vacant lot prior to the construction of the statue and the pocket park around it about 15 years ago.

He said speaking for the entire committee would be presumptuous, but he was willing to share his opinion.

“I don’t want to damage property, but I feel as though this is a real statement. And it's brought this issue to the forefront. And this community is going to have to deal with it,” said Logan. 

“At this point, I don’t think it needs to be cleaned up. It’s kind of part of his legacy now too.”

Like many residents, Logan, who is Black, didn’t know about Rochester’s history and he said he spent the last few days researching it. 

“At the end of the biography, they said it really wouldn’t have been a big deal that he moved here with 10 slaves,” said Logan. “Nobody would have thought much of it. And that really gave me pause. It made me really think. What about the slaves?”

He said the unrest in recent weeks speaks to the complicated relationship between Black people and America.

“I feel as though African Americans love this country," said Logan. “But at times, and I don’t mean this to be glib, we’ve been in an abusive relationship, but we still love this country.”

Logan said he plans to meet with the committee, the artist who built the statue and hopefully the community to discuss what should happen next.

The Rochester Police Department has not yet responded to a request for comment about any investigation surrounding who vandalized the statue.

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