DENVER — Denver police are investigating the toppling Thursday of a statue outside the state Capitol that recognized a Union cavalry regiment that fought Confederate forces but also acknowledged soldiers’ role in an 1864 massacre of Native Americans.
The incident comes as protesters across the nation have defaced and torn down statues of historic figures during recent demonstrations against racial injustice. Most of those pieces have explicit ties to colonialism, slavery and the Confederacy, including imagery of Christopher Columbus and former U.S. presidents who owned slaves.
Erected in 1909, the Denver statute depicted a 1st Colorado cavalryman and honored soldiers who died for the Union in the Civil War.
Cavalry members also participated in the Sand Creek Massacre, in which volunteer soldiers led by Col. John Chivington ambushed and murdered more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians, mainly women and children, in southeast Colorado.
The state Legislature added a bronze plaque to the statue’s base in 1999 to acknowledge the Army’s massacre. In 2014, then-Gov. John Hickenlooper apologized on the state’s behalf to tribal members on the 150th anniversary of the massacre.
State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler told The Denver Post that “individuals” toppled the statue at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Denver police spokesman Doug Schepman said authorities were reviewing surveillance camera footage of the incident.
“It’s too early to have further context on what the intent was or who the individuals were,” Schepman said.
The monument’s base was covered in graffiti during recent protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Work crews removed the toppled statue from the Capitol grounds.