A tree marking the centennial of the 1919 killings of hundreds of black people in the small town of Elaine, Arkansas was found chopped down last week, with its memorial tag stolen.
The tree, planted in April, memorialized the hundreds of black men, women and children killed by white Arkansans in 1919 during the so-called “Red Summer” of numerous violent attacks on African Americans.
The violence in Elaine began after sharecroppers met to organize and push for fairer treatment and were subsequently attacked.
The Elaine Legacy Center said on Facebook that the tree was found chopped down on Wednesday morning, its memorial tag stolen.
The Living Memorial, memorializing all those who lost their lives in the Elaine Massacre vandalized“The Living…
“It could not have been easy to get the tag off its branch,” the center’s president Mary Olson wrote. “Was it vandalism? Was it a threat? Was it a hate crime. It is now blocked off with crime tape until the state investigators come.”
Elaine Police Chief Alvin Scaife told USA Today that the tree “appeared to be cut down” and that state authorities were handling the case.
Meg Matthews, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, confirmed to TPM over the phone that the incident was being investigated.
“Our chief ranger has conducted an investigation,” she said. “It’s being treated as vandalism and theft of property. There are no suspects.”
“We are not investigating a hate crime,” she added. “From what we can see it is vandalism.”
“Hacking down a tree is not graffiti. Graffiti is vandalism, ok?” judge and pastor Wendell Griffen objected to local station WMC last week. “Hacking down a tree is a hateful act.”