The young sapling stood shaky and spindly in fresh soil as a member of the Black Caucus dedicated the tree, saying it would be “a symbol of peace and comfort and hope for all who gather under its branches”—a fitting way, perhaps, to cap off an event that sparked protests, outrage, riots and thrust the country into a national discourse about race, police brutality, the militarization of law enforcement, and holding authority accountable.
A small plaque marked where the memorial stands, along a walking trail in January-Wabash Park, a simple stone, inscribed with the words “In Memory of Michael Brown Jr. Dedicated Tree 04/15.”
By the next day, the tree had been chopped down. The stone marking the memorial had vanished. And police say they have no leads on the vandals.
A video report from local News 4 affiliate KMOV found citizens upset and struggling to understand why someone would desecrate the modest memorial.
“I can’t understand why someone wants to cut down the tree. What? They want to start something back up again?” a man asked.
“I guess people have mixd emotions,” offered one woman.
One man expressed his cynicism over the symbolism of someone mistreating the memorial:
“It’s not going to get any better. It doesn’t matter if it’s St. Louis. It doesn’t matter if it’s Wyoming. It doesn’t matter if it’s Denver, Colorado. If that’s the the census that everyone’s going to take against a horrible, horrible case, then nothing’s going to get better. It doesn’t matter how many trees you plant. It’s not going to get any better if you keep having stuff like that happen.”
Officers with the Ferguson Police Department declined to answer questions about whether they have any leads on who desecrated the tree. When asked whether they would be following up on the vandalism or posting a guard at the site of the memorial to prevent further attacks, an officer told the Daily Dot: “I don’t have anything I can discuss at this time,” and he hung up.
The vandalized tree was replanted elsewhere and a new tree has been planted at the site of Michael Brown Jr.’s memorial.