Statue of white supremacist, former SC governor vandalized

Red paint drips from the statue of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, in Columbia, SC., Tuesday June 30, 2015. Tillman, a former South Carolina governor whose white supremacy policies, written into South Carolina’s 1895 Constitution, created the Jim Crow-era South. Tensions in the state are heightened over Confederate symbols in the state in the wake of a slaying at a black church two weeks ago.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Authorities are investigating the vandalism of a statue of a segregationist South Carolina governor as the state grapples with heightened tension over Confederate symbols in the wake of a massacre at a black church.

Red paint dripped Tuesday from the statute of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli says an officer saw what appeared to be a red paintball on the statue during morning rounds. Workers were cleaning the statue Tuesday afternoon.

Tillman, a noted white supremacist, spent three decades — from 1890 to 1918 — as governor and as a U.S. senator.

Iacobelli says more officers have been posted at the downtown complex, where a Confederate flag has been a focus of protests since the fatal shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston on June 17.