Apr 14, 2014 07:43 AM EDT
Statue of Olympic Gold Medalist Tommie Smith Vandalised at SJSU
Police officials are on the lookout for an individual responsible for vandalizing the historic statue of alum and famous Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith at San Jose State University.
Pat Lopes Harris, a university spokeswoman, said that the gold medal imitation on the statue was found missing April 10. The painted mosaic medal was displayed around the larger-than-life-size statue in the center of the SJSU's campus.
"We believe somebody tried to remove it, and we're not sure why this was done," Harris said. "We're very concerned. It's a very disheartening situation," the Tribune reports. "It's either a vandalism or someone mistakenly believing it was something that can be recycled," Mercury News reports.
"This is the third time it's happened, and it's going to cost a chunk of change to get the artist in to replace it," said journalism professor Jessie Pickett, NBC Bay Area reports.
Smith is well known for his emblematic black-gloved fist salute during the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. After winning a gold medal in the 200-meter sprint during Mexico City Olympics, Smith pointed his right fist toward the sky to show support to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States. The Black Power salute earned him a suspension from the Olympics.
The iconic statue of Olympic runner, erected in 2005, stands beside another statue of John Carlos. The fellow Olympian and San Jose State track teammate, who won a bronze medal in the same race, also raised his fist along with Smith.
Smith explained the reason behind the clenched fists during the statue installation ceremony. "It was only done to bring attention to the atrocities of which we were experiencing in a country that was supposed to represent us," Smith said, abc reports.
Ron Rosellon, student tour leader, said that unless a student is aware of the historic relevance about the statue, it is just another incident on campus.
"There's a lot of folks that are out of touch with the movement, the civil rights movement, and I think it won't bring that level of significance," Napa Valley College Student Services spokesperson Howard Willis said. "However, I do know that there are individuals, folks here on campus, that are continually trying to raise the awareness.
Anyone with information about the vandalism can contact the University Police Department at 408-924-2222 or log ontowww.sjsu.org/police. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002.
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