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Brigham Young statue vandalized near BYU's Smoot Building

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Jun. 19, 2020 at 4:07 p.m. | Posted - Jun. 19, 2020 at 1:49 p.m.


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PROVO — The iconic statue that stands as a welcome to visitors at Brigham Young University woke up with some extra marks this week.

The statue of the university’s namesake in front of the Abraham Smoot Administration Building was vandalized sometime between Sunday night, June 14 and Monday, June 15.

The word “racist” was spray-painted on the statue in red paint, some of which splattered on to the building sign, BYU Police Lt. Rich Christianson confirmed on Friday to KSL.com. A red letter “X” was also painted on the sign to the administration building, according to a police report and photos of the incident obtained by KSL via a government records request.

BYU police are looking for at least two people involved in the incident, police documents say.

The suspects appeared to attempt to cover the statue in red latex paint, Christianson said, adding that it looked like it was “done in haste.” A bucket of red latex paint was left near the base of the statue, according to photos taken by university police.

Crews from BYU’s grounds crew and paint shop quickly removed paint from the statue Monday morning. The red “X” on the granite sign required abrasive blasting, according to police documents.

"They had it cleaned off that morning," Christianson said. "It was just spray paint and latex paint."

The granite sign outside the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building is marked with a red "X" following an overnight case of vandalism, Monday, April 14, 2020 on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo. (Photo: BYU Police via GRAMA Request)

The incident was first reported by BYU’s campus newspaper, The Daily Universe. The student news organization also reported two individuals were found attempting to hang a sign reading “Black Lives Matter” around the neck of the Karl G. Maeser statue on June 16. University police records indicate an active investigation into “criminal mischief” stemming from a June 16 incident at the Maeser Building.

BYU police logs recorded an act of “criminal mischief” at the Smoot Building between Sunday, June 14 and Monday, June 15 at 6:37 a.m. MT, when it was reported.

It’s unknown if the two incidents are related. Both investigations remain active, according to BYU police logs. Part of the investigation involves checking cameras to see if a suspect could be identified, according to the police report.

Anyone with information on the vandalism can call BYU police at 801-422-2222.

This isn't the first time a statue of Brigham Young has been vandalized in Provo, or similar such vandalism has occurred on campus. Back in 2003, a statue at what is now Academy Square and the Provo City Library — the site of the former Brigham Young Academy on University Avenue — was painted with red paint, and the word "sexist" scrawled across the fixture's base.

In 2017, a group of four University of Utah students painted red "U" markings on BYU's cougar statue in front of LaVell Edwards Stadium, but that was seen by many as a piece of rivalry mischief. The four students were banned from campus in their citation. The university traditionally wraps statues and similar on-campus fixtures during rivalry games, as a precaution.

BYU announced Wednesday the formation of an eight-member committee tasked with reaching out to university officials and the campus community to address concerns surrounding racial inequality. The committee follows several statements and proclamations from President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that owns the school, calling for an end to racism and racial injustice.

Shortly before the formation of the committee, a group of current BYU students and alumni started a change.org petition asking for the university to rename the Smoot Building because of the Utah pioneers’ historical ties to slavery.

Contributing: Emerson Oligschlaeger, KSL

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