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Smashed Breonna Taylor sculpture stolen days after it was vandalized in Oakland

The bust of Breonna Taylor is seen before it was vandalized over the weekend.
(Nenna Joiner)

A ceramic bust in Oakland honoring Breonna Taylor that was smashed the day after Christmas has now been stolen, the artist said Tuesday.

Leo Carson, the artist who created the sculpture, discovered the bust missing Tuesday morning — a day after he had raised more than enough money through a GoFundMe account to rebuild the broken statue in sturdier bronze.

“The vandals are continuing their campaign of intimidation against the Black Lives Matter movement and we must resist their attempt to erase Breonna’s image,” Carson said Tuesday in an Instagram message. He added that he believes the bust is “likely completely destroyed.”

Carson will be filling the base in Latham Square with concrete Tuesday afternoon as part of a rally and news conference addressing the theft.

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Emblazoned with the phrase “Say Her Name,” the ceramic bust was found vandalized the day after Christmas, two weeks after it was installed in the city’s downtown area.

The artwork commemorated Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot to death by police inside her Louisville, Ky., apartment during a botched drug raid in March. The deaths of Taylor and other Black people killed by police, such as George Floyd, have spurred the country’s reckoning with generations of racial injustice and sparked massive protests across the country.

Oakland police Monday said they were aware of the initial incident and were investigating but provided few details. They did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the recent theft.

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News of the vandalism garnered attention for what was initially a quiet, independently conceived project. That translated into support, including donations, to bring the bust back in a sturdier form.

A GoFundMe page launched Sunday to raise $5,000 to reconstruct the work in bronze far exceeded its goal in less than 24 hours. It has now topped $20,000.

It’s not immediately clear how the money will be spent now that the original sculpture is missing. When the GoFundMe account launched, Carson said any money not spent on rebuilding the sculpture would be given to Taylor’s family.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Carson lost his job as a server at a burger restaurant in nearby Berkeley. He used the extra time to design the sculpture over several months. Once it was installed, he said, he was enthused to see members of the community taking photos of the work and enjoying it.

Carson, who lives in Oakland, was notified of the vandalism in an Instagram message Saturday evening and went to see his artwork. When he saw the damage, he said, he felt “really shook and overwhelmed.”


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