NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Jackie Robinson statue outside MCU Park in Coney Island has been vandalized.
As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported Wednesday, permanent marker was used by someone to deface and offend. A swastika, along with the phrases “Heil Hitler,” “die n****r,” “f**k n****r,” and “f**k Jackie Robinson” were all scrawled on the statue, which depicts Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese in a famous pose from 1947, 1010 WINS reported.
“It was disgusting,” volunteer Patrick Gabour told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.
Gabour has cleaning supplies in his car and helped clean off the offensive graffiti.
“It is terrible that somebody would do something like that,” one woman said.
“They come in here and do this — unbelievable,” added Coney Island neighborhood resident Hector Martinez.
Brooklyn Cyclones officials made the disturbing discovery when they arrived at the park Wednesday morning.
“Immediately we went into action to try to clean it and remove the graffiti,” Billy Harner, Director of Communications for the Cyclones, told 1010 WINS.
“We have 36 security cameras around the ballpark. Unfortunately, from right now I don’t think we’re going to see anything directly,” said Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen. “We got a bad apple and if they don’t catch him, I’m certain karma is…as they say.”
Particularly disturbing for those who saw the graffiti was that it defiled a statue of someone who triumphed over such ugliness.
“It’s Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. And Pee Wee Reese is putting his arm around Jackie Robinson,” said Beau Baxter of Midtown. ”And the inscription is something to the effect of all the racial taunts Robinson endured so it’s really awful somebody vandalized it.”
The hateful graffiti goes against everything the statue stands for.
Its inscription reads:
“This monument honors Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese: teammates, friends, and men of courage and conviction. Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Reese supported him, and together they made history. In May 1947, on Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. Reese, captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd. This simple gesture challenged prejudice and created a powerful and enduring friendship.”
Crews worked to remove the vandalism from the base of the statue ahead of the 11 a.m. game between the Cyclones and the Connecticut Tigers. They covered the words of hate with duct tape and later a black tarp after the solution crews were using to clean the statue failed to remove the paint, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
Fans arriving at the game shook their heads in disbelief.
“History-making this man was, especially in Brooklyn,” one man said. “It’s horrific. I don’t know who would do such a thing.”
“It’s such a beautiful monument, representing what the country is based on,” another man said. “It’s a tragedy.”
Natasha Capers and her sons had just returned from the game.
“It’s really sad that after a really enjoyable afternoon to have to come out and explain what is vandalism? What is a racial slur? to a 7- and 9-year-old,” she said.
Capers and her sons had experienced the high of the Cyclones’ victory Wednesday, but it was all ruined with the vile low of the graffiti on the statue.
“It’s Camp Day, and hundreds of students from across the city coming into this stadium to be greeted by this,” said Capers, of Brownsville, Brooklyn. “It’s shameful.”
“Hang him right up there by the parachute without the parachute,” an angry onlooker told Silverman.
“It’s a damn shame,” Brooklyn Borough historian Ron Schweiger said. “This has been here for eight years and it’s never been touched. And I’m putting that in quotation marks. Everyone touches it but it’s never been vandalized.”
As crowds and spectators exited MCU Park, city officials were comparing notes with a graffiti removal expert who showed them a solvent he said will remove the messages of hate from the marble.
And after the disturbing words were blocked from public view, a cleanup crew sprayed, scrubbed and power washed.
The New York Daily News announced Wednesday night that it is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the graffiti.
The newspaper will feature the reward offer on its front page on Thursday.
Meanwhile, police on Wednesday were reviewing surveillance video and searching for suspects, who will be charged with hate crimes.
“There are some people out there who are still prejudiced. We will not accept this conduct,” said City Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-47th.) “We will make sure these people get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They are not going to defame Jackie Robinson!”
Recchia said he wants a security camera for the statue.
The statue by sculptor William Behrends was unveiled at the park in November 2005.
The Cyclones are a Single-A affiliate of the New York Mets.
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