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Ashland 'Say Their Names Memorial' vandalized

The Ashland Say Their Names Memorial was vandalized on Jan. 24, 2023.
Erik Neumann
The Ashland Say Their Names Memorial was vandalized on Jan. 24, 2023.

A Black Lives Matter memorial near downtown Ashland was vandalized on Tuesday night. The Say Their Names Memorial spans Railroad Park and includes hundreds of t-shirts and posters with the names of people of color who have been killed over the past century, many by police.

The t-shirts that were previously fixed to a chain link fence had been torn down and strewn around the park on Wednesday morning. The vandalism took place just days between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Feb. 1 start of Black History Month.

“That fence means so much to so many people,” said Gina DuQuenne, an Black activist who is also a member of the Ashland City Council. “Just because someone or some couple of individuals had this idea and thought to do that, well it’s not going to work because love always wins.”

DuQuenne said she believed the vandalism was racially motivated. The Ashland Police Department could not be reached for comment.

The Say Their Names Memorial was first installed on June 28, 2020, as protests calling for racial equity were sweeping the U.S. and the globe. It was created in the aftermath of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and in recognition of Oregon’s exclusion law that resulted in Black people being whipped until they left the state. The names of numerous other individuals had been added to the memorial since then.

The memorial was also vandalized in August, 2020, but soon after it was reinstalled at a larger scale. According to DuQuenne, residents plan to begin reinstalling the memorial on Wednesday afternoon.

Funds are currently being raised by the Black Alliance and Social Empowerment and several other Southern Oregon community groups to create another, more permanent memorial around the theme of Black Lives Matter in the Rogue Valley. The sculpture, titled “Ancestor’s Future: Crystallizing Our Call,” was designed by Micah BlackLight and will be installed in Ashland Creek Park, according to DuQuenne.

“If we do not look at our history and look at our past and have the open conversations that might be uncomfortable, we will never find common ground,” DuQuenne said. “To me, that fence at Railroad Park was common ground, and it still remains to be common ground.”

Correction: a previous version of this story miscredited the creation of the Say Their Names Memorial to the Black Alliance and Social Empowerment and the Say Their Names Collective. It originated as a community memorial.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.