CRIME

MLK statue at Freedom Corner vandalized; State will assess damage

Steven Spearie
State Journal-Register
The 300-pound bronze Martin Luther King Jr. statue, which sits on the Illinois State Library grounds across from the Illinois Capitol Building, was vandalized Sunday evening. One person has been arrested.

One person is in custody for vandalizing the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Second Street and Capitol Avenue.

Fernando Garcia Martinez, 24, was arrested Monday by Secretary of State police for criminal damage to state supported property. A formal charge is pending.

Garcia Martinez is in the Sangamon County Jail. He will appear before a judge on a bond hearing on Tuesday.

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Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Secretary of State said there was no hometown for Garcia Martinez listed. Druker didn't know where Garcia Martinez was arrested.

The 300-pound bronze statue, which sits on the Illinois State Library grounds across from the Illinois Capitol Building, was "toppled over" late Sunday, Druker said. No motive was given.

It was taken to a Springfield warehouse where authorities were assessing the damage and potential repairs, Druker said.

In 2011, vandals hurled yellow paint at the statue. It was cleaned right away and did not sustain permanent damage. There were also vandalism incidents in 1996 and 1999.

The King statue, sculpted by Geraldine McCullough, was unveiled on January 14, 1988, and displayed in the Capitol rotunda until it was moved outside the Illinois State Museum in 1989. 

In 1993, the statue was moved to its present location, also called "Freedom Corner."

King is the only non-Illinoisan to be honored with a statue on the grounds of the Capitol Complex.

"It's unfortunate when anything like this happens," said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, "especially in the environment we've seen over the last several years. Any sort of vandalism like this is malicious. I just wish people would respect what are very important monuments to very important people and give them the dignity that they're due, but obviously this wasn't the case for this gentleman."

At left is the empty pedestal at Second Street and Capitol Avenue where a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has stood since 1993. A vandal toppled the statue late Sunday evening. State of Illinois officials are assessing damage to the statue.

Butler, the spokesperson for the House Statue and Monument Review Task Force, has endorsed a new King statue, one that is "a little more iconic."

Butler has also suggested that it might be moved by the Illinois State Armory where King spoke at the Illinois State AFL-CIO convention in 1965.

The Armory at Second and Monroe streets is set to get a $122 million revitalization.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White spoke in 2021 about wanting to see a new statue of King.

White knew King as his pastor while White was attending Alabama State University (then known as Alabama State College) in Montgomery, Alabama. White was inspired by King to participate in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This story will be updated.

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.