Statement from The City of Jamestown Human Rights Commission on Dow Park Incident

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Article Contributed by
The City of Jamestown Human Rights Commission

The City of Jamestown Human Rights Commission denounces the hateful vandalism of the Catherine Harris and Silas Sherman statues in Dow Park discovered on the 4th of July in the City of Jamestown. This racist, anti-Semitic act is a clear example of white supremacy in our city and must be renounced as loudly and powerfully as possible. The Commission is disappointed by the repeated malicious activity that has happened in Dow Park in recent months. The looting of the Underground Railroad Tableau in May of this year was reprehensible, and this vandalism has made it clear that there is a racist narrative that is becoming more prevalent in our area.

Catherine Harris, Silas Sherman, and many other individuals from Jamestown and the surrounding county, shared an active role in the Underground Railroad. These activists dedicated their time, money, and opened up their homes to provide aid to people trying to reach freedom. Due to these efforts, it is estimated that about 30,000 people were able to reach Canada. The City of Jamestown has always played a significant role in the fight for justice and equality and this community will not be defined by the defacement of our statues. We refuse to allow these acts to tarnish their importance. We do not want this to be how these statues are recognized and remembered by the world.

It is our duty as a community to identify this white supremacist behavior and work tirelessly to obstruct its expression in our neighborhoods. As a Commission, it is our responsibility to acknowledge destructive and hateful acts like those committed in Dow Park, and to ensure that these do not become distinguishing traits of our city. We strive for Jamestown to be known for its strong opposition to any prejudiced, intolerant behavior that does not align with the values of compassion and inclusivity.

Anti-Semitism is defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Merriam-Webster’s definition is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Both definitions can be directly applied to the vandalism at Dow Park. The Commission does not hesitate to view these actions as unequivocally anti-Semitic and feel that our leaders should treat them as such.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an organization started in 1913 with a mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”. Their main focus is to monitor, track, expose, and respond to antisemitism around the county. Their Center on Extremism keeps a running list of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. They use this information to compile yearly audits; comparing the number of incidents to past years, dividing them up by state, and even organizing them by certain locations such as schools, business establishments, college campuses, etc. These audits help provide a small glimpse into the hate and animosity that Jewish individuals face throughout their lives. The incident in Dow Park is now on ADL’s tracker and will be a part of their 2021 audit.

The Commission wants to emphasize that this act was a hate crime, and that we are in support of identifying the involved individual(s) and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law. As Jamestown residents, we are tasked with the obligation to vehemently rebuke any and all expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. These acts do not define who we are as a community and are in direct opposition to the work we do to represent and highlight our city’s diversity at the City of Jamestown Human Rights Commission.

The Commission urges anyone who may have information regarding the vandalism or the disappearance of the statues at Dow Park to please contact the Jamestown Police Department at (716) 483-7537. Alternatively, the Department’s tip line is (716) 483-8477. All callers can choose to remain completely anonymous.