Damaged marker a sign of the times?
Two weeks after a new historical marker went up on King Street, somebody knocked it down.
And unfortunately a lot of people had the same thought: Here we go again.
On the surface, the story sounded an awful lot like the plight of the Robert Smalls marker on The Battery.
Last year, less than a month after it was dedicated, some yahoos tore down the historical marker commemorating Smalls and his historic journey.
Why? It may simply have been drunk college kids, or it might have had something to do with Smalls himself — and rednecks with a racial chip on their shoulders.
In 1862, Smalls stole a Confederate boat and sailed it and more than a half-dozen slaves to freedom during the Civil War.
The marker that fell Monday commemorated a 1960 sit-in at the S.H. Kress & Co.’s segregated lunch counter.
So you can see where someone might detect a common thread here.
Three signs in a year?
Evan Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, admits he first feared vandals.
“Of course it crossed my mind,” Thompson says. “But we’ve had nothing but tremendously positive response to the marker.”
Fortunately, this probably wasn’t malicious. Witnesses — and video cameras that recorded the incident — show a yellow box truck clipped the sign while pulling away from the curb. Unfortunately, the truck kept going.
Police say it was an accident, but city workers say they are looking at it as a hit-and-run. The question is whether the truck’s driver knew he hit the sign.
Historical markers have it rough in this city. In 2010 the state put up a marker on the site of Institute Hall — the building where South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession was signed in December 1860. In 2012 a moving van mowed down the sign in a similar hit and run.
“That’s the peril of a street-side sign,” Thompson says.
To be fair, these signs are kind of sticking out over the curb. They stand at the edge of the sidewalk and are perpendicular to the street, so people can read both sides without standing in the road. That makes them easy targets.
But three in a year?
Either someone needs to re-think the placement of these signs, or a lot of people need to drive a little more carefully.
Watch your blind spots
City workers say they probably can repair the civil rights sign quickly and get it back up.
These things are meant to break away rather than stand there like a monolith and cause serious damage to people or cars. But depending on how they break, you can be looking at a whole new sign.
And that would set us back $2,000.
Perhaps the police will find the person who hit this sign and save taxpayers the burden of repairing the sign.
Bottom line, it’s a shame that in 2013 our first thoughts turn to vandalism when a busted sign deals with racial politics. There is a lot of history in Charleston, and whether it’s about secession or a sit in, we should respect it all. Do unto others, you know.
Or at the very least, be careful parking.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com. Tune in to his live chat at noon today at postandcourier.com.