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Bust of York toppled in Portland’s Mount Tabor Park

Sometime during the night of July 27 or the early morning of July 28, the bust of York was torn from its pedestal.
Courtesy: Portland Parks & Recreation
Sometime during the night of July 27 or the early morning of July 28, the bust of York was torn from its pedestal.

A bust of York that mysteriously appeared in Portland’s Mount Tabor Park this spring has been toppled.

York was the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

His bust, by an unidentified artist, has been a bone of contention since it went up without official permission in February. It replaced a statue of Harvey Scott, a controversial newspaper editor, that was pulled down during the racial justice protests of last summer.

Adrienne Flagg, who has helped facilitate public art in the past, said she’s disappointed.

“This was a really exciting piece of public art,” Flagg said. “Although it didn’t come through official channels, it seemed to be very organic for our community and it was beautifully done.”

Lynda Martin-McCormick lives near the statue and said good art is meant to make people uncomfortable, but tearing the statue down was a political statement.

“This was a political act by a faction of white people who want white people to stay on top, no matter what,”  said Martin-McCormick.

The director of Portland Parks and Recreation, Adena Long, said staff will inspect the bust to see if it can be salvaged.

“Unfortunately, the numerous racist responses to the memorial of a Black man forced to participate in the Corps of Discovery Expedition have not been a surprise,” said Long.

“The latest act of vandalism is incredibly disappointing for me, and I’m sure the majority of Portlanders will miss seeing York at the top of Mt. Tabor.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a veteran journalist/producer working for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He started as a cub reporter for newspapers in London, England in 1988. Then in 1991 he moved to Oregon and started freelancing. His work has appeared in publications as varied as The Oregonian, the BBC, the Salem Statesman Journal, Willamette Week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NPR and the Voice of America. Kristian has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. He was embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq in 2004 and now specializes in business, law, health and politics.