A story that we covered around a month ago out of Baltimore has taken a strange twist. As you may recall, BLM protesters in Charm City, combined with other liberal groups, had targeted a monument to Christopher Columbus located in Heinz Park, demanding that it be renamed. Normally you see these groups tearing down statues and such if they honor insufficiently woke historical figures, but this case was different. The Columbus Obelisk isn’t a statue of the vilified explorer. In fact, it’s not a statue of anyone. As the name implies, it’s a simple obelisk that resembles a miniature version of the Washington Monument. Near its base, there is a small plaque paying tribute to Columbus. The protesters demanded that it be renamed as a tribute to people who have been killed by police officers during lethal force encounters.
This was a particularly offensive demand because the obelisk stands only a short distance from another memorial in the park. That one honors police and other law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty. Despite the obvious slight, the City Council took up the measure and passed it in two stages, the last one being on October 5th. It only needed the signature of the Mayor to go into effect. But in a rather surprising move, outgoing Mayor Jack Young vetoed the bill this week. His explanation for his actions was very much in line with objections that had been raised by the police. (CBS Baltimore)
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has vetoed a bill that would have renamed the city’s Columbus Obelisk Monument to memorialize victims of police violence.
In a letter to City Council President Brandon Scott, Young wrote he vetoed the bill, which would have changed the name of the monument in Heinz Park to the Victims of Police Violence Memorial, due in part to opposition to Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.
“The monument to be renamed by this ordinance is close to another memorial honoring police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” Young wrote.
Sounding perfectly reasonable in his letter, Young said that he was confident that the Council could find a different location to “honor victims of police violence” and that both memorials should be places of reflection, not divisiveness. Renaming the Columbus Obelisk in this fashion would diminish the sacrifices of the officers who were lost in the line of duty.
That all sounds well and good, assuming you believe that suspects killed in lethal force encounters with police officers, the vast majority of whom were criminals to start with, deserve a permanent memorial. But there’s a major hitch in Mayor Young’s plan going forward.
You see, Jack Young will be out of office and presumably on his way to retirement in January. The person he sent the letter to, City Council President Brandon Scott, is the person who will be replacing Young as Mayor. (Young was previously the City Council President himself and was replaced by Scott after he was elevated to Mayor, replacing Mayor Catherine Pugh, who was on her way to jail after being convicted of all manner of corruption.) Brandon Scott supported the proposal to rename the monument.
What that means is that rather than finding another “suitable” location for the memorial to victims of police violence and leaving the Columbus monument as it is, the Council can simply vote on the same proposal again in January with the expectation that Mayor-elect Scott will sign off on it. Trying to convince him that it would be insulting to have the proposed monument so close to the monument for fallen police officers probably isn’t going to carry much water because insulting the police memorial was the objective in the first place.
So why did Jack Young bother vetoing the bill? He surely knew that it would be an unpopular move with many in the city government who are not exactly fans of the police. Perhaps he knew that he wasn’t going to be running in any more elections and just didn’t care what people thought about the veto. Maybe he had a moment of wrestling with a guilty conscience and decided he should do something respectful for the police before leaving office. We may never know since he didn’t offer much by way of an explanation. But at least for the moment, this hateful maneuver has been put on hold.