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'The Suffragist' vandalized

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | March 27, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Vandalism to a beloved downtown statue has outraged many and led to a reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person who did it.

“It’s very disgusting to an artist and to me personally,” said Terry Lee, who created “The Suffragist” that was dedicated in August 2020 in downtown Coeur d’Alene by McEuen Park.

Lee was especially upset that of the four statues he made and that stand on Front Street, the female was targeted. It celebrated 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right the vote.

“There is real meaning behind that to the city, the nation,” said Lee, who learned of the vandalism Saturday morning.

“To have that happen is disheartening, to say the least,” he added.

According to Coeur d’Alene police, someone spray-painted the face of The Suffragist yellow and painted a yellow X on the sign gripped by her two gloved hands. They also painted “Beta Males” on the ground in front of the bronze statue.

Police said it happened just before 4 a.m. Friday.

A video recording of the area, while too far away to identify a suspect, showed it was one person.

The damage was cleaned up by city crews Friday morning. Saturday, The Suffragist, which stands 6-feet tall and has a wax coating, looked back to normal. One woman stopped to inspect it closely, while a family stopped to check out all the statues, including the “American Worker,” “Idaho Farmer” and “Idaho Lumberjack.”

The Miner statue, also made by Lee, is scheduled to be added this summer.

The Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association is offering a reward leading to the arrest of the person responsible.

Emily Boyd, executive director, said the statue is an important part of downtown and a tribute to an important time in history.

“A clean and safe downtown is a top priority for the downtown association,” she said.

Many reached out to Boyd and have already donated to the reward fund. By Saturday afternoon, the fund was at $1,000.

Steve Widmyer, former mayor of Coeur d’Alene, was upset.

“It’s disgusting that anyone would deface that,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect our community and we’re going to stop this kind of behavior.”

In social media comments, people expressed anger over what happened.

“I really hope whoever did this gets the repercussions they deserve,” wrote Cassie Hudson.

“Why do people have to destroy things because they disagree with what they stand for,” wrote Kay Van Cleave.

“How horrid,” wrote Cheryl Reed.

Bill Greenwood, Coeur d’Alene parks director, said at a recent meeting that vandalism often occurs in the city, but crews are quick to clean it up, so people often aren’t aware of it.

Jennifer Drake, chair of the Coeur d’Alene Arts Commission, said time, money and great effort goes behind such art work around the city and it is really owned by the community.

Drake said art is rarely damaged, but when it happens, it hurts.

“It’s incredibly disappointing anytime we see any kind of art vandalized,” Drake said.

She believed the act may have been political.

“This was motivated by a certain lack of reasoning,” Drake said.

According to one definition, beta male means “a man tending to assume a passive or subservient role in social or professional situations.”

Drake said most support the statue and what it stands for.

At the dedication ceremony on Aug. 18, 2020, she said: “So now, on the hundredth anniversary of this defining moment in our nation’s history, we get to celebrate a statue that will stand strong for the next hundred years and beyond. ... Your support of The Suffragist has given the people of Coeur d’Alene an incredible gift that speaks to our shared history, our sacrifices, and our resilience. May she always stand as a reminder of past battles that were fought with ceaseless determination and won with courage; a reminder that remains as necessary today as it was then.”

The group, “Women Getting Stuff Done,” led a drive to raise about $60,000 to fund the statue. The group included Mary Lou Reed, Ruth Pratt, Terri Farr, Mary Sanderson and Roberta Larson.

Councilwoman Christie Wood, a retired police sergeant, said she was told there was a video, from a distance, that showed one person was behind the vandalism.

Police were checking with area businesses to see if surveillance cameras picked up the suspect coming or going.

Wood said the statue stands for the battle women went through to earn the right to vote a century ago. Women fought for something taken for granted today, and won.

Such a symbol of that time should command respect, Wood said.

“I’m appalled that ‘The Suffragist’ was the target,” she said. “It’s a terrible thing.”

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call police at 208-769-2320 or 208-769-2296. You can also text keyword CDAPDTIP to 847-411.

To donate to the reward fund, contact Boyd, 208-667-5986 or mail donations to the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association, 105 N. First St., Suite 100, Coeur d’Alene, 83814. Donate online at bit.ly/3IClBbf

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