A tree planted in Ferguson, Missouri, in memory of Michael Brown—the teenager fatally shot last year by a local police officer—was ripped in half last weekend the day after it was planted. The Black Caucus of ALA, which donated the tree, said it would not be deterred by vandalism.
The memorial tree was intended to represent new life and growth after a difficult period. Instead, it has become a symbol of the most trying divisions in Ferguson, Missouri.
Over the weekend, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) planted a tree and placed a stone with it to honor the memory of Michael Brown, the teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson. Brown’s death sparked riots in the city as well as peaceful protests there and beyond and prompted a national discussion on police tactics, particularly those used by white officers against minorities.
“The tree dedication ceremony to honor Michael Brown Jr. represents just one of several social justice issues that BCALA champions,” Makiba Foster, a caucus member who is helping to organize the National Conference of African American Librarians in St. Louis later this year, told The St. Louis American on Friday.
But just a day after the tree was planted at Ferguson’s January-Wabash Memorial Park, it was cut down, setting off a firestorm on social media.
Mike Brown tree dedicated yesterday, decimated today pic.twitter.com/oUq6gHqWDj
— BlackInformant (@BlackInformant) April 20, 2015
So hateful. https://t.co/cEi6tIVUJD
— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) April 20, 2015
“I can’t understand why someone would want to cut down the tree,” a resident told local television station KMOV. “What, they want to start something back up again?”
In a statement to The Washington Post, city officials said that they had no leads on who might have vandalized the memorial.
Not Giving Up
In a joint statement, ALA President Courtney Young and BCALA President Kelvin A. Watson said they were “saddened that such a heartfelt gift from the library community was not met with acceptance.”
While the groups reacted to the news with dismay, they emphasized that it would not deter them from putting up another memorial in its place.
“As information providers, we understand that in order for society to move forward we must learn from our history,” Young and Watson said in a statement. “This act of vandalism illustrates that there are member(s) of the community who wish not to honor and learn from its history, but to continue to repeat the mistake of violence and intolerance.”
— Search4Swag (@search4swag) April 20, 2015
On Monday, the group did just that, planting a new tree in honor of Brown.
“Many things have been destroyed in Ferguson, but the death of the tree has not abolished our commitment to facilitate a positive growth within the community,” Young and Watson continued. “We will not give up on Ferguson and will continue to promote peace and tolerance.”