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Wondering what’s behind the damage to Martin Luther King Jr. monument: “It’s an absolute disaster and heartbreaking”

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Wondering what’s behind the damage to Martin Luther King Jr. monument: “It’s an absolute disaster and heartbreaking”

Late Wednesday, workers covered up parts of the damaged area of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” monument in Denver’s City Park as the artist who created it came by to lament what had happened. 

“It’s an absolute disaster and heartbreaking,” said sculptor Ed Dwight. “It’s not so much the physical part of it but it’s kind of the spiritual part for me that somebody would violate this thing… and for what?”

The statue in Denver’s City Park was vandalized overnight. The damage was discovered on Wednesday morning where there was a gaping hole where there had previously been a bronze panel weighing an estimated 200 pounds. There were also two bronze representations of torches pried off the side of the monument.

RELATED: New documentary features Ed Dwight’s pioneering career in astronaut training



The monument is an emotional gathering point, where the annual Marade kicks off every year on MLK Day. 

Celebrated artist, Edward Dwight, is a University of Denver alum, who was also in the Air Force training program from which NASA selected astronauts, chosen in 1961 during the Kennedy Administration. 

He was the first African American Astronaut candidate. Ultimately he was not selected for space exploration. Dwight resigned from the Air Force in 1966, saying racial politics forced him out of NASA.

Later after returning to Denver, he began to apply his artistic talents to sculpting and focused on African American history.

Dwight has created thousands of works of art, including 132 Black memorials around the country. He says to date a quarter of them have been vandalized. He felt the vandalism at King’s statue was not hatred.

“I don’t think so in this case. I really don’t think so. This was a metal job… that’s the only value there is. I mean they can’t display it anywhere, what are they going to do with it?” Dwight asked. 



He says he has contacted local scrap yards to tell them he will pay more than they would pay out for the return of the stolen pieces.

Replacing it will be difficult, especially since Dwight has lost nearly all of his sight and is legally blind.

Dwight’s daughter, Tamara Rhone, felt it being only stolen for the value of the metal less likely. 

“If you’re going to do scrap metal, you’re not going to get a whole lot of scrap metal from that,” she said.

She worried about the motive. 

“Why can’t people just celebrate each other? I don’t understand the hate,” she said.  “I think the nation is becoming like this which is sad,” she said. 

Dr. Vern L. Howard, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, said emotions are running high. 

“I was the project manager and this was like attacking one of my children,” said Howard. “It represented everything that the African Americans did to get to the point to where there was a civil rights bill, a voting rights bill and things of that nature.” 

The MLK Jr. statue in Denver’s City Park was vandalized overnight. 

Dr. Howard at MLK Commission

The stolen panel depicts African American participation in American wars from the Revolution through Vietnam. 

Although Dwight said he isn’t necessarily angry at what has happened, he is worried about how his creation can be fixed.

“I can’t see anymore and finding an artist who can replicate this is going to be difficult,” he said. 

RELATED: Sculptor Ed Dwight among honorees at MLK Jr. business awards in Denver

The Dr. MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission confirmed the damage to CBS News Colorado early Wednesday. 

Denver police said the bias-motivated crime unit is assisting with the investigation. Denver Parks & Rec staff are viewing surveillance video from a camera on the City Park pavilion in hopes of catching the vandals in action. 

Dwight was previously profiled by CBS News Colorado’s Karen Morfitt about his second career as an artist.     

The MLK Jr. statue in City Park was vandalized. 

MLK Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission

Anyone with any information about the vandalism to the statue is urged to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-7867 – (720) 913-STOP. 

To be eligible for the $2,000 award and to remain anonymous, tipsters must call the tip line. Crime Stoppers collects information on unsolved crimes or individuals wanted by the police. 

Callers can remain anonymous. The tip line is answered 24 hours a day – seven days a week. 

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