McKinley defacement probed as statue opponents deny involvement

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA PLAZA – As Arcata Police try to find out who defaced the statue of William McKinley on the Plaza, supporters and opponents of Measure M continue to infer and at times outright accuse each other of committing the vandalism for political reasons. Meanwhile, those wishing to remove the statue explicitly deny any involvement (see below).

Measure M, which appears on the Nov. 6 ballot after a successful petition initiative, would override the City Council's Feb. 21 decision to uproot the 1906-vintage statue and put it in storage until another home for it can be decided.

McKinley's new look. KLH | Union

APD Lt. Todd Dokweiler said APD has little to go on. The statue damage, which appears to be superficial, was discovered the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 16. "We have no distinct timeline other than it occurred overnight," Dokweiler said. There are no suspects.

Even the substance used to discolor the statue's deep green patina is unknown, though city engineers are trying to figure out what it was and what to do about it. "They've taken samples and are exploring how to remedy the situation," Dokweiler said. "It's patina that occurs with time and age and weather. We can at least lessen the effect." One option is to polish up the whole statue.

While originally reported as being acid, Dokweiler guesses that the substance splattered on the statue was probably commonplace, and possibly not even terribly caustic. "Likely it's some sort of cleaner," he said. "Something anyone would have in their kitchen cabinet."

Identification of a suspect is hampered by the lack of witnesses, and by the ease and swiftness with which vandalism can occur.

Someone could have been walking by with a bottle of whatever liquid was involved, splashed the statue with some of it, and even others in the area wouldn't have been aware of the attack. "Like a lot of vandalism, it happens in a second," Dokweiler said.

There is no official City of Arcata camera trained on the Plaza, though some businesses have security cameras that give partial views of the square. APD is well aware of cams which can provide limited visual coverage, and has looked at the video, but to no avail.

"From what we have seen so far, we're not able to locate any video currently," Dokweiler said. "We'll continue to poke around."

City Councilmember Michael Winkler, who helped promote the petition that placed Measure M on the ballot, seemed to suggest that statue opponents were involved. In a TV interview, he pointed the finger of blame at "people who just feel like they know what's right and they know what's best and that the statue is bad and they have the right to do anything they want to to damage it because it's a symbol of harm and evil."

Dokweiler affirmed there is no information to that effect, nor even that the vandalism was political in nature. "There's nothing further to indicate that it was politically motivated," Dokweiler said.

NO on Measure M Press Release

In light of the recent defacing of the William McKinley Statue, the NO on Measure M group would like to make a statement to the public to be clear where we stand. We did not take part in nor were we aware of the vandalism that was done to the statue on October 16th, 2018.

Although we are working to get the statue removed we are concerned that someone has defaced the statue in order to influence the election outcome. Despite this, we are still confident that the community will not be distracted by this act of vandalism and make the right choice on November 6th.

Remember, vote NO on Measure M to continue the removal process of the McKinley Statue on the Arcata Plaza.

Learn more about the statue and its history at or


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