Vandal quotes Obama with spray paint on Confederate memorial statue

Black spray paint on the Confederate Memorial statue near The Battery in Charleston on Friday morning. Dave Munday/Staff

The Confederate memorial statue at The Battery has been vandalized again, this time emblazoned with words from President Barack Obama.

A witness reported seeing the act.

Black spray paint on the granite base Friday morning read, “The cause for which they fought the cause of slavery was wrong.” The other side read, “Take down this racist statue.”

The words spray-painted on the front of the statue is a quote from Obama’s eulogy of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church pastor and a state senator who was shot to death along with eight others at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last month.

“Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong,” Obama said.

The bronze statue on a granite base is dedicated to “the Confederate Defenders of Charleston — Fort Sumter 1861-1865.”

Drivers and pedestrians stopped to stare at the defaced statue before the messages were covered up with a cleaning solution around 10 a.m.

Police have a description of a suspect.

At 6:20 a.m., a nearby laborer saw a man get inside the railing around the statue and walk to the back, according to an incident report. The man heard a hissing sound and realized it was being spray-painted and called out “Hey!”

The vandal finished the job and ran north on East Bay Street, where the witness quickly lost sight of him. He said the man likely turned onto Atlantic or Water streets.

The vandal was described as a white male with dark hair in his late 20s to mid-30s. He was tall and slender and wore a black T-shirt, black shorts, black ball cap and gold-rimmed glasses. The witness said he could identify the man if he were to see him again.

The statue was also defaced several days after the shooting with red spray paint saying “Black Lives Matter” and “This is the problem #racist.”

The John C. Calhoun statue in Marion Square also has been defaced with messages protesting racism.

An avowed white supremacist who had posed with a Confederate flag on his Facebook page, Dylann Roof, was arrested after the church shooting.

The Confederate memorial statue should be clean by Saturday morning, according to Jacob Cammer with Roth Restoration. A thick layer of soy-based paint remover would sit on the polished granite for several hours and then be pressure washed, he said. The process would be repeated as needed.

The previous incidents of vandalism cost taxpayers $600 to $1,300 each, City Parks Director Jerry Ebeling said.

Robert Behre and Cleve O’Quinn contributed to this report. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.