Phoenix Confederate monument defaced with paint; Apache Junction area monument damaged

PHOENIX -

A Confederate monument at an Arizona state government memorial plaza in Phoenix has been cleaned after it was defaced with paint a second time this week amid controversy over Confederate statutes and other honors.

The state Department of Public Safety says troopers early Thursday morning confirmed that the Confederate Troops Memorial at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza had been painted.

DPS says a suspect described as a white man in his 40s was last seen riding a bicycle nearby. He was last seen wearing a black hat, black shirt and cargo shorts riding a bike in the area of 17th Avenue and Washington. 

The Department of Administration says the monument also was cleaned Wednesday after it was painted Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

RELATED: Robert E. Lee was against Confederate memorials 

Governor Doug Ducey released the following statement about the vandalism: 

These acts of vandalism are not an appropriate response, and it's not how we do things in Arizona. If you have objections to a memorial, then get involved and work through the proper channels. Breaking the law and destroying property isn't the answer. 

Another Arizona monument near Apache Junction was also damaged by unknown vandals. 

A monument to Jefferson Davis on U.S. 60 near Gold Canyon was found covered in tar and feathers on Thursday. The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating.

 Authorities this week also found that the Confederate Troops Memorial at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza outside the state Capitol had been painted white. The paint has been removed.

Arizona State University associate professor of history Mark Tebeau told ABC15 the monument at Wesley Bolin Plaza was placed in 1961 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy as part of marking 100 years since the Civil War. Still, he believes it's meant to symbolize much more than that.

"It's a commemoration of a rebellion against the United States, a rebellion fought to perpetuate slavery," he said. "Among historians, that's a pretty basic kind of point."

However, one Phoenix resident sees the Confederate monuments as a positive tribute.

"Those monuments don't speak to racism or slavery, all they do is they speak to military men who did what needed to be done for their country and their states," said Robert Booher.

ABC15 reached out multiple times on Thursday to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but have not heard back. 

"I think it's absolutely irresponsible and non-productive. It does absolutely nothing to promote the cause of removing symbols of hate in the state when individuals take matters into their hands and vandalize state property," said state Rep. Reginald Bolding, who is black and who has advocated for the removal of Confederate monuments on public lands.

Arizona was briefly a Confederate territory and a Confederate force occupied Tucson for a few weeks during the Civil War.

The issue of Confederate monuments has been building up for years as black leaders and others around the country have called for their removal, saying they glorify racism.

They've faced opposition from white nationalists and even President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Thursday that removing monuments was foolish.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," Trump wrote.

 In Arizona, civil rights leaders have pressured Gov. Doug Ducey to call for their removal to no avail.

The governor said Monday that it's not his desire "or mission to tear down any monuments or memorials."

"We have a public process for this," Ducey said. "If the public wants to be engaged in this, I'd invite them to get engaged in it."

Ducey condemned the racist groups that protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. That protest turned violent and left one woman dead after a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., was described as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, was arrested and charged with murder and other offenses for the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

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