Colorado State Capitol Civil War Statue

Kathryn Scott, special to Colorado Politics Crews remove a Civil War statue in front of the Colorado State Capitol on June 25 in Denver. The statue had been toppled the night before.

A statue of a Civil War soldier with ties to the infamous Sand Creek Massacre that has stood on the west side of the state Capitol for more than 100 years was toppled early Thursday, the Colorado State Patrol said.

Denver police are investigating the vandalism and Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement condemning the damage and promising to repair it.

"I am outraged at the damage to a statue that commemorates the Union heroes of the Civil War who fought and lost their lives to end slavery.

"This statue will be repaired, and we will use every tool at our disposal to work with Denver police, and to hold accountable those responsible for the damage whether they are hooligans, white supremacists, Confederate sympathizers, or drunk teenagers."

According to state archives, the statue of the cavalryman, dismounted with rifle in hand, "honors the Colorado soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War."

It was designed by Capt. Jack Howland, a member of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, and originally built in 1906.

According to the Smithsonian, citing the Denver Public Library, the bronze statue cost $15,000 "and was Denver's tribute to Colorado volunteers who fought for the North in the Civil War, and it also represents defiance of Southern rebels."

But the statue also commemorates another war inscribed on its granite base that represents the historical racism that Black Lives Matter protesters and their allies are fighting to change.

Colorado was designated a territory shortly before the Civil War broke out in 1861, according to state archives. The 1st Colorado Cavalry, the state's first cavalry regiment, was formed in November 1862 from two previous volunteer units.

Throughout 1864, the 1st Colorado Cavalry fought a series of skirmishes with Plains Indians, culminating in the slaughter of 230 Arapaho and Cheyenne at Sand Creek, while under the command of Col. John Chivington.

Half of those killed were women and children.

On the base of the Civil War statue, the Sand Creek Massacre is listed as a "battle" in which Civil War cavalries participated.

In 2014, on the 150th anniversary of the massacre, then-Gov. John Hickenlooper apologized to the Native Americans on behalf of Colorado. The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was dedicated in 2007.

The statue is believed to have been pulled off its base around 1:30 a.m. Later Thursday morning, a crane lifted it onto a truck which hauled it away from the Capitol Complex, which has been damaged during protests over the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police that began late last month.

The cost of repairing the statue hasn't been determined, a state spokesman said.

Kenny White of Denver was at the Capitol on Thursday just before the crane arrived. He said he spit and stomped on the head of the statue before it was moved.

The statue is a monument to soldiers who committed genocidal acts, White said later. "Every single person listed on there committed genocide against indigenous people. It's a monument to white supremacy."

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