In this June 15, 2019, photo, men work near a monument under construction honouring victims of the Elaine massacre that sits across from the Phillips County court in Helena, Arkansas [File: Noreen Nasir/AP]
Officials in Arkansas are investigating after someone cut down a willow tree that was planted to honour the victims of the 1919 Elaine massacre, one of the largest racial mass killings in United States history, US media reported this weekend.
The Elaine Legacy Center said the tree was chopped down at its base last week and a memorial tag was stolen. Memphis, Tennessee, television station WMC reported that police and state parks officials are investigating.
The tree was planted in April in remembrance of the victims of the massacre, which occurred during the summer of 1919, when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mob violence during what became known as the “Red Summer”.
Events are planned for later next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Arkansas.
“Hacking down a tree is not graffiti. Graffiti is vandalism, okay? Hacking down a tree is a hateful act,” Arkansas judge and pastor Wendell Griffen told WMC. Griffen added that the incident warrants a hate crime investigation.
“They see us as having no value. Our feelings don’t matter. Our pain doesn’t matter. Our memories don’t matter. The folks that were massacred don’t matter and our families don’t matter,” Griffen told the local news station.