Rhode Island Social Science Teacher Arrested For Vandalizing Columbus Statue


For many of us, the spasm of vandalism of public art and history has been painful to watch as mobs destroy a vast array of statues around the world, including such bizarre anti-racism vandalism like defacing Abraham Lincoln’s statue in London.  The arrest of Derrick Garforth in Rhode Island is particularly disturbing after he allegedly vandalized a statue of Columbus. Garforth is a social science teacher in Middle School who teaches history but sought to destroy a historical monument. It is a powerful lesson for his students but not one that you would expect from a history or social science teacher.

I have long opposed the sweeping efforts to dismantle or destroy historical monuments and statues. (Here and here and here and here and here and here and here) While I recognize that there are some statues that should be removed, my primary objection is to the lack of a public debate over how we should address these calls. Instead, mobs have been destroying or defacing statues.

Arrested with Garforth, 34, were Charlotte Whittingham, 28, and Mackenzie Innis, 26.


What has been chilling is the role of teachers like Erin Thompson, a professor of “art crime” at the City University of New York’s John Jay College.  Thompson actively  advised how to best destroy art in a tweet thread.

According to news reports, Garforth was charged with felony desecration of a grave or monument over the vandalizing of a statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence, Rhode Island.  Police say that Garforth and two others ran after police spotted them splattering the statue with paint.

The question is how the middle school will respond. We have often discussed how schools have react in vastly different ways if they agree with a teacher’s criminal actions.  For example, universities continue to honor Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young with pro-life advocates on campus. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, filed complaints and Miller-Young was charged with criminal conduct including Theft From Person; Battery; and Vandalism. Miller-Young was convicted and sentenced for assault.  She was not fired for her assault and instead she was supported by faculty and students including some who insisted that she was “triggered” by the pro-life activists. Some called pro-life activists as effectively terrorists.

Rhode Island General Law requires that anyone hired directly by the private school or public school department, contractual employees of the private school or public school department, and those individuals, who may have direct or unmonitored contact with children or students, must undergo a state criminal background check. Under the statute, the state criminal background check is valid for one year. However, state law confines “Disqualifying information” to those “offenses listed in §§ 23-17-37, 11-37-8.1, 11-37-8.3, 11-9-1(b), 11-9-1(c), 11-9-1.3.”

It is not clear that destruction of public property is a de facto disqualifying crime. The second provision, 11-37-8.1, involves sexual assault and the third provision, 11-37-8.3, is attempted sexual assault.   Section 11-9-1(b) and 11-9-1-13 concern child pornography.

The first provision, 23-17-37, actually deals with health care facilities but give a list of offense:

§ 23-17-37. Disqualifying information.

(a) Information produced by a national criminal records check pertaining to conviction for the following crimes will result in a letter to the employee and employer disqualifying the applicant from employment: murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault, assault on persons sixty (60) years of age or older, assault with intent to commit specified felonies (murder, robbery, rape, burglary, or the abominable and detestable crime against nature) felony assault, patient abuse, neglect or mistreatment of patients, burglary, first-degree arson, robbery, felony drug offenses, felony larceny, or felony banking law violations, felony obtaining money under false pretenses, felony embezzlement, abuse, neglect and/or exploitation of adults with severe impairments, exploitation of elders, or a crime under section 1128(a) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(a)). An employee against whom disqualifying information has been found may provide a copy of the national criminal records check to the employer who shall make a judgment regarding the continued employment of the employee. An employee against whom disqualifying information has been found may provide a copy of the national criminal records check to the employer who shall make a judgment regarding the continued employment of the employee.

So what does Jenks Middle School do now that Garforth has been placed on leave pending an investigation?  This is not just a criminal act but a lesson to children that they should destroy symbols and art that they oppose.  I expect many will come to support his case but it is the very definition of mob action.  It is the rejection of intellectual discourse and debate that defines education.  He is a social science teacher who wants to destroy monuments and art so that others cannot enjoy them, or reach their own conclusions on its merits of their worth. Unlike our prior discussion of social media and blog controversies, this is a case involving conduct not speech.

75 thoughts on “Rhode Island Social Science Teacher Arrested For Vandalizing Columbus Statue”

  1. As a retired, public school, social studies / history teacher, I was appalled by this teachers actions. To me, this is an example of using a 21st century “perspective,” to judge and condemn the actions of someone in our distant past, whose actions were motivated by a 15th century “perspective,” that was widely accepted and respected in his own lifetime. I would further argue that regardless of whether one likes or dislikes Christopher Columbus as a person, his accomplishments were second to none in their impact on western history, and resulted in the opening of a whole new era of history, appropriately named after him, post-Columbian.

    I would think that rather than trying to sanitize history to fit his own ethnocentric likes and dislikes, Mr. Garforth would have better served his students by using the statue of Christopher Columbus as a teaching tool to compare and contrast the 21st century “perspective” vs. the 15th century “perspective” of both Columbus’ values and accomplishments.

    Rather than defacing, damaging, destroying, or removing statues of Christopher Columbus, Confederate generals, slave holding politicians, or whatever other statue that might find itself in the crosshairs of whatever is the trending outrage, I would argue that a better and more effective alternative would be to put up an additional plaque or marker, with a text that provides the opposing/alternative perspective regarding what the statue is seen as representing. That way these statues could be used as potential teaching tools for not just this generation, but for all future generations as well. Then too, the potential consumer of the statue’s representation of history, could make up their own mind, rather than having their understanding of history sanitized by someone else.

    1. Dale K. Benington:
      Dale, that’s all to rational and hence Western for these limousine radicals. Barbarism and irrationality suits ’em better so barbarians they are. Here’s hoping for lengthy jail sentence and a trip to Realsville that a felony record usually means.

  2. A lot will depend on what he is actually convicted of. If the local D.A. allows him to plea bargain his way down to some minor offense that doesn’t reflect what he actually did, then he will keep his job and the entire episode will set a terrible example for his students.

    1. TIN – they won’t wait for charging or conviction. The school district’s problem is now. The principal of the school will make a recommendation to the Superintendent, who will take that recommendation to the Board in executive session. The soon-to-be-ex-teacher will be allowed to attend with counsel to defend himself. The Board will then decide.

      Anything else they have been keeping on this guy will also come up.

        1. FFS, go to Project Veritas and see how the unions have protected teachers potentially involved in physical violence against a student and rape. It was very distressing to see how a teacher’s union officer would lie, backdate and tell a teacher that wrongfully hurt a student how to avoid punishment.

  3. It would be more rational to debate the actions of historical figures in the context of the times in which they lived and completely ignore the comparison with their obviously unknowable future.

    1. Olly,
      Yes, I can’t remember who said it but, “No man would want to be judged outside of the context of the time he lived”.

      1. Jim,
        I believe that is partly true. Covey wrote about what he called the Four Human Dimensions: Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, Physical, with Spiritual being the highest of the four. In that dimension is our desire to leave a legacy. Legacy of course means how we are judged outside of the context of the times we lived.

        This reminds me of another of Covey’s work describing the emotional bank account. In that, we make deposits and withdrawals that positively or negatively impact our relationships with others. I believe the legacy each of us have is the sum total of our actions. Individually, our actions need to be measured in the context of the time we did them. It’s the net positive or negative of those actions that is the legacy we leave behind. This seems to be the only fair way to measure historical figures.

        For example, if we measure Washington and others of the founding generation in context and legacy, we should conclude their actions, like slave ownership, in the context of their generation was of course a negative, but their contributions to the future of this nation and humanity in general were overwhelmingly a net positive (legacy).

        What do you think?

        1. Olly,

          That is an interesting point. It’s almost like giving praise or worth to evil so that we have an example of what not to do. In an extreme example does Hitler serve a purpose as to guide us away from a leader like that ever coming again? Or in a more obtuse way, if Hitler/Germany never rises would the U.S. ever become the industrial world leader it became? Do we go to the moon without WWII? To me, it is hopeful to think that from bad things, goodness will sprout.So back to Washington, had he and others not existed and American slavery not happened, what would slavery look like today?

          1. Well, instead of removing the existence of Washington and the other founding fathers, imagine what this continent would have been like if they didn’t seek independence? Or what if the DoI was never written or was written with only white men of European origins being endowed with certain unalienable rights? It would cease being a visionary document and the amendments to our constitution like the 13th, 14th,15th, 19th would have no foundation. Even the Bill of Rights would be questionable.

            I believe the Butterfly Effect is part of Chaos Theory for good reasons.

          2. Jim,
            Here’s an interest article, right in line with what we are saying.

            These were among the decisive figures of American history. If all are dishonored, with their statues pulled down and their names taken off cities, counties, towns, rivers, canals, bridges, buildings, highways, roads, streets and dams, then what is left?

            Detest all those white men if you will, but they were the ones who created the nation we inherited.


    2. Good or bad it’s history and should be respected as such. As a parent i would be very upset that a teacher who is so closed minded and radical would be teaching my child, i actually would think seriously about making sure he was not in his class or home schooling my child. There should be charges filed against him.

      1. I agree Kathy. We are a product of our history, good and bad. As a country and as individuals. Scrubbing the bad for any reason denies us the information we need to reconcile who we are today and worse, eliminates the lessons of history we should not want to repeat.

        A good analogy is what I do in my profession. I am an accountant. There’s a story (history) that makes my client’s balance sheet and P&L what they are today and for that matter, what they were at any given point in the past. Each debit and credit signifies an event that may or may not have been profitable for the business. Any business looking to improve performance needs to know how these transactions affected their profitability. If I simply eliminated all the transactions that negatively impacted their business, not only would I not reconcile, the financials would be false and the (story) of their financials would be false.

  4. Malcolm X: “The white liberal is the worst enemy to America…” Holds up today more then ever!

  5. Educational institutions are collecting pools of the world’s jerks.

  6. This particular statute of Columbus has been vandalized many times over the years. It usually happens around Columbus Day. The city has spent a ton of money repairing it and protecting it. If I remember correctly, the Italian community in Rhode Island raised funds to construct it. For them, at one time, it was a source of ethnic pride.

    As far as his job, he will take a hit on his teacher evaluation if he still has a job. The state could also yank his teacher license, but unlikely. Background checks are only done when you are first hired. Never have I heard of them being done after a permanent hire.

    1. No, they haven’t spent a ‘ton of money’ on a few parks department employees with sandblasters.

      They don’t need to do a ‘background check’ on someone who is on the police blotter.

      And it shouldn’t be controversial to have a general policy in Rhode Island that a criminal conviction means a loss of eligibility for any public employment for a period of time which is a function of the severity of the offense. For low-grade misdemeanors, you could substitute no-pay furloughs for dismissal.

    1. honestlawyer – facial hair was all the rage in the Victorian period. She really did not understand her subjects. 😉

    1. I believe that technically you are actually referring to the United States of America, which is part of the Americas (i.e. North America & South America). So while Columbus never set foot in the United States of America, he did set foot on part of the Americas.

  7. I remember 1968. Chicago police riots, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedys assasination. Race riots, anti war, anti military. 12 year later we elected Ronald Regan. In the 1970s there was a cutback in military spending. Jimmy Carter tried to rescue Americans in Iran. He found out that he didn’t have the right military hardware to do it. Look at our military today. It seems like every generation or 2 we have to go through an exercise to relearn why we do the things we do.

  8. Statues and other remembrances should be accompanied by iterations of the truth. Columbus was no hero. He was an adventurer in an age of adventurers. His aims were financial and self gratification. He was no different from Lindbergh who was a racist, a fascist, and really nothing more than an adventurer. Planes have been used to rescue people and bomb them to smithereens.

    However, there is a difference between a Washington who owned a hundred plus slaves and stood for larger issues, without bucking the system and General Lee. Washington took the evil along with his good. Lee fought exclusively to maintain evil, the slave based economy of the South. Arguments that it was state’s rights are simply lame. The South fought for their State’s Rights to continue the evil of slavery.

    Some of these statues must come down. If they are to remain they should be accompanied with statues of like importance with plaques education the viewer as to the reality of the monuments. The statue of General Lee should be surrounded by statues of equal size; something of the importance of the ‘Burghers of Calais’ by Rodin. The purpose of a statue or a street name is to remember history. If the object cannot illustrate history truthfully then it should go.

    Columbus was an adventurer in a time of racism, colonialism, and other isms that are no longer acceptable. However, he would have been the same man in any time, with or without the isms.

  9. Debate is fine and dandy. But then what? How long have we been debating slavery and the treatment of blacks in this country? And to what affect? Robert E. Lee was a traitor and should have been hung for leading an insurrection against the United States. Instead we have statues of him? Something went seriously wrong.

    I agree with you, defacing art, silencing art is not the answer. But us white folks better get on board that blacks have had the short end of the stick for a very long time and IMHO, they are probably getting tired about talking about it.

    1. “that blacks have had the short end of the stick for a very long time” Please explain or give an example.

    2. Paul – two things. 1) it is called the War of Northern Aggression because until Gettysburg all battles were fought in the South. 2) If the blacks are getting the short end of the stick, then need to either become Republicans or Independents. The Democrats have been hold them down.

    3. But us white folks better get on board that blacks have had the short end of the stick for a very long time and IMHO, they are probably getting tired about talking about it.

      The use of ‘IMHO’ in an admonishment like this is smarmy.

      That aside, Fannie Lou Hamer died 43 years ago and very few people of working age today have had any experience of the life she led. There are three ways in which the lives of the black population are distorted and disfigured to a degree the lives of others are not: (1) exposure to street crime; (2) exposure to school disorder; (3) abnormal deterioration in the built environment where they live; and (4) deficits of mundane retail trade where they live. All of these problems are subject to a great deal of amelioration (not elimination, because there is no end of the ways in which nice things are nicer than not-as-nice things). Black politicians, liberal lawfare artists, the media, partisan Democrats, woketard youth, &c. have absolutely no interest in addressing these problems and are working to make them drastically worse.

      P*ss off.

      1. The problem with any cause is if it gets an organization. Once this happens there will never be a cure for the original problem since the organization will have no reason to exist and the organization will not want to go away.

      2. Hear, hear. Could have not said it better my self. They only care around election time.

    4. Paul…………..You’re not getting any of this, are you? The blacks OWN the stick, see? And they are holding America hostage, convincing the guiltridden among us that systemic racism prevails.
      News flash…….”Systemic racism” is a myth. What we are seeing is systemic victimism.

      1. They’re doing nothing of the kind. The relationship between gentry liberals and black chauvinists is dyadic. Black chauvinists are offensive, but they could be dealt with if gentry liberals didn’t have their as*es in the way. As with so many problems, the emotional disorders of gentry liberals are at the heart of it.

  10. They have to wait for the school board to meet in executive session. They will have no trouble firing him.

    1. Three signatures on a letter of dismissal should be sufficient to can him for anything under the sun, one from any three of these four persons: the head of his teaching department, the vice principal in charge of faculty hiring and evaluation, the principal, the superintendent of schools. What the school board needs to do is insist on the production of his personnel file and then put those four people on the hot seat. Why was this person hired, and what have been the complaints about him in the past? And what did you do about those complaints? Hearing from parents who know this schmuck would be helpful as well.

  11. Put his ugly photo on a wall at ground level at the school and put a pan under it at the wall. Put up a sign which says:. Pee On The Creep!
    Let anyone exercise their First Amendment Right to pee on he.

  12. Columbus died at the age of 54. He did more for the world in his short life than anyone else…except for Barack Obama….of course


  13. Something tells me that I would not get the support from the left wing if I was to destroy the “Piss Christ”. But that offends Christians, so it is ok, right liberals?

  14. By today’s standards, Columbus was a horrible human being. That’s simple fact.

    I don’t read any comments asking why there aren’t Adolf Hitler statues in Germany. Probably because everyone can agree that, he too, WAS A HORRIBLE PERSON.

    We are a culture that is rapidly changing. Get over it, folks.

    Such pearl clutching!

    1. “ By today’s standards, Columbus was a horrible human being. That’s simple fact.”

      there are no standards sweetie. Thats the whole point of the Left: destroy America and her values, her culture, her people and oh yes…families.
      Mission accomplished except for our 2nd Amendment. Good luck with that

      Columbus did what few people would do today. Columbus was a hero

      Presidents who manipulate young women in the Oval Office, and then destroy them with political leaders….horrible people

      1. Columbus did what few people would do today. Columbus was a hero

        He was born in Italy, was a sailor since his youth, rejected by multiple monarchs to fund his belief of a New World, finally gained support and funding from Spanish Monarchs and discovered the Americas

        No CEO can pull that kind of funding for a business they run today.
        He was quite the visionary doer of things

      2. I’m sure that was a common refrain among Neanderthals when complaining amongst themselves about homosapiens too, “sweetie”.

        (anonymous guy)

        The best news is that you’re probably old and on the way out. So there’s that.

        Change is scary for small minded people.

    2. By today’s standards, Columbus was a horrible human being. That’s simple fact.

      The term ‘fact’ does not mean what you fancy it means.

    3. Olaf– By today’s standards, if you can call them that, Jesus was a horrible person. He never spoke out against the Roman practice of exposing children (leaving unwanted babies beside a road or path to die). He never spoke out against slavery. In fact, through his disciple Paul, he admonished Christian slaves to obey their masters. And, his disciples were all men because at that time women were denied equality. Instead of going back in history to find your bug-a-boos how about focusing on the democrats today who demand the right to have late term abortions, including the right to actually kill a child who survives an abortion. Is that less barbaric than slavery? Indeed we are a culture that is changing rapidly. There was a time when people thought it was wrong to glorify a convicted, violent felon who showed no sign of redemption. Today, we give him three funerals and condemn the man who treated him the same way he treated a pregnant black woman in Houston. I’m trying, but I have not yet been able to “get over” that.

  15. The guy and his pals are yahoos and will be punished in some fashion. That said, the statue had been boarded up and the white paint was found on the boards. So while they may have wanted to vandalize the statue, they didn’t actually do it any harm.

    One might guess that the school will find some way to get rid of him, as they should.

  16. Is there intellectual discourse ?
    Bill Clinton and his mob cult following know a thing or two. First define the word is


    Ever since LBJ used Blacks to support the Democrats lust for power while he called them privately n!gg8rz, our descent into the absurd has been faster than a bat out of hell.

    as if we needed any proof….here is one “expert” who specializes in sex workers

    oral history indeed!



    Mireille Miller-Young

    Associate Professor

    Office Location:
    4712 South Hall
    Black Cultural Studies, Pornography and Sex Work

    PhD. New York University (American History and History of the African Diaspora
    M.A. New York University (American History and History of the African Diaspora)
    B.A. Emory University (History)


    Areas of Study:

    Sex Work and Sexual Economies
    Feminist & Queer Theory
    Women of Color feminisms and Queer of Color Critique
    African American & African Diaspora Studies
    Cultural Studies
    Visual/Erotic Archives
    Film Histories and Media Technologies
    Oral History
    US Labor and Cultural History

  17. I get what you’re saying, Turley. But where’s the discussion about how icons solidified in the canon with really sketchy pasts get to stay in the canon?o

    And I live in RI. We tend to get down like this from time to time here, dating all the way back to Roger Williams. Not that we don’t have slave traders, or the slave trade in our history here…, actually one of the worst histories of it tbh. But RI is sort of free spirit to an extreme.

    1. And I live in RI.

      This is getting tiresome, Gainesville.

  18. Ah the antidemocratic propensities of the mob in full display. What isn’t talked out is the antidemocratic propensities of the education establishment who grows, employs and inspires this barbarian. We can talk all the symptomology you want but tracing down to the cancer is more interesting to me. Oh and this cretin ought to be sentenced to making little rocks out of big rocks for 20 years or so.

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