PHOTO: Protestors gathered in Central Park, some in support of Gandhi and some against.
By Priscilla Lee,
Incited by the vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue, local residents rose up to protest in Central Park this afternoon. Under police supervision, some assembled to honor the legacy of Gandhi and promote the reinstatement of the toppled figure, while others were intent on exposing him for acts of racism and rape and deeming him unworthy of a monument.
City employees assessing the recent storm damage found the statue cut down at its ankles and missing the top half of its head early on Jan. 27, according to the Davis Enterprise. The incident took place just several days before the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination on Jan. 30.
A donation from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations to the city of Davis, the statue was installed in 2016 amidst opposition from anti-Gandhi and anti-India organizations, and sparked much controversy in its four years of standing.
An Instagram post by the California Sikh Youth Alliance (CSYA) stated “this [incident] was no doubt brought about by inaction of the city government” in response to protests by Sikhs last year.
Members of the CSYA and the local Sikh community rose up in response to a pro-Gandhi car rally, starting the protest at 12 p.m. and ending at 2. An estimated one hundred-plus people showed up according to Dr. Singh, a protestor who wished to remain anonymous to avoid harassment from the Indian government.
“We wanted to unveil the proposed ‘father of peace’ in his true form, instead of what the Indian media has fed society for decades,” Singh said.
Participants marched around Central Park protesting for the “unethical and immoral glorification of Gandhi’s statue” and lobbying against reinstallation of the statue, according to the CSYA’s posts on Twitter. Their signs read “Gandhi was anti-Sikh,” “Gandhi was a sex offender,” and “Gandhi hated Blacks,” accompanied by shouts of “Gandhi was a racist.”
On the other hand, many still respect Gandhi as a symbol of nonviolence. The Hindu American Foundation stated in a tweet that the vandalism incident was an intimidation tactic against India and Indian-Americans rather than a statement about Gandhi’s legacy as a person, and believes the event should be investigated as a hate crime.
“We urge local police to apprehend the perpetrators and call upon the city council to resurrect the statue as a statement that such destructive acts are not in harmony with our community standards,” said HAF California Advocacy Director Easan Katir, a former member of the Davis Business and Finance Commission, in a press statement.
The City of Davis acknowledged the wide range of beliefs in the community and stated, “the solution to solving such differences is never in violent acts but through compromise and dialogue. It is our sincere desire that our community move[s] forward with peaceful and positive discourse and reconciliation.”