On July 16, Saratoga Springs police discovered that a statue, erected in the 19th century to commemorate Union Army veterans from New York’s 77th Infantry Regimen during the Civil War, had been toppled in Congress Park. The statue lay in pieces on the ground, giant chunks of it, including its head, hand and parts of its torso, lay at its base.
The statue’s destruction caused an immediate uproar in the city, with some pointing fingers at Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters, some of whom, in other parts of the country, had felled statues that honored racist figures or histories. (The assumption here was that the vandal hadn’t gotten an A in history.) Others wondered if it was the other side at fault: One local BLM protester, quoted in the New York Times, wondered aloud whether it, in fact, had been the act of a racist person, who wanted to destroy a pro-Union monument.
All this, following a summer of, at first, peaceful protests dating back to early June, which began happening in the city (and around the world) following the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota. Multiple BLM protests and counterprotests followed—most notably, one in which Saratoga police rolled out a tank-like vehicle and shot pepper bullets at counterprotesters to disperse them from the Congress Park area.
More than a month later, no suspects have been arrested in connection with the vandalism of the statue—though private citizens have offered to bring that person or persons to justice. And while a GoFundMe page has been launched by the local Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War chapter, with a stated goal of $20,000 and $8,400 raised at press time, it’s unclear what the statue’s future is at present.
One famous Saratoga County resident wants to change that. Former executive producer and director of the hit sitcom Friends, Kevin Bright, who appeared on the Spring 2020 cover of Saratoga Living—and who sits on a number of boards around town and most recently, along with his wife, funded Caffè Lena’s Music School—tells me that he wants to fully fund the repair or replacement of the toppled statue, but that he wants to do it “through the right channels.” (It’s unclear, for instance, where the $20,000 total comes from in regards to the GoFundMe page—or if some of the money will go to fees to GoFundMe.) Donations have already been given to help repair the statue, but Bright says “I will pay the rest to get it done.”
At press time, he tells me that he’s planning on contacting the mayor’s office today (August 28) to get the ball rolling.