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Westminster College vandalism suspect arrested

Thursday, June 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:44 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 11, 2009
A spray painted goatee was left by vandals on May 30 on the Churchill statue outside of the Churchill Memorial at Westminster College in Fulton.

FULTON — Westminster College, made famous as the place where Winston Churchill coined the "Iron Curtain," has started restoring historic monuments at the school defaced last week by spray-painted graffiti.

At the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which was one of the targets, Fulton police Lt. Andre Cook announced the arrest of one suspect in the vandalism.

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Victor Calderon, 24, of Fulton was arrested after a tip led to a search warrant for his home. He is charged with institutional vandalism, several counts of property damage and tampering with a motor vehicle. More charges are possible. Cook said another person is believed to be involved but has not been arrested.

The other vandalized monuments were a bronze statue of Churchill and an 11-by-32-foot sculpture created by Churchill's granddaughter and made up of eight sections of the Berlin Wall.

The famous British prime minister used the "Iron Curtain" in his 1946 speech at Westminster to refer to the new division of East and West in Europe following World War II.

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent," Churchill intoned. "Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow."

The Berlin Wall, which encircled West Berlin and separatedit from East Berlin, a part of it from the German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany), came down in 1989. The pieces of the wall in the sculpture have graffiti on them from that time.

“Calderon believed the Berlin Wall stood for the downfall of tyranny and wanted to be a part of it and decided to add his graffiti to the wall,” Cook said at the church, which is next to the wall sculpture and the Churchill statue.

At the press conference, Westminster President George Forsythe called the vandalism a “painful blow” to the school and the Fulton community.

The graffiti included a white mustache and goatee to the Churchill statue, the words "Who are we?" and the outline of a face on the Berlin Wall sculpture and the same phrase and outline on an outside wall of the church. The church was spray-painted in three places and the wall sculpture in two places. Two of the spots on the church have been erased by R & G Restoration of Jefferson City, which also performed restoration work at the Missouri Capitol.

After the press conference, R & G's Will Camden was at work on the third spot, spraying a white foam onto the church wall. The structure survived the Great London Fire of 1666 and World War I. The poet John Milton was married in the church, according to the college. It was left in ruins by World War II and rebuilt brick by brick in Fulton.

Camden said spraying chemicals and washing with a pressure washer needs to be done 50 or 60 times for each mark before the stone is clean.

“Basically we’re trying to get it off without eating the stone all up,” his colleague, Ed Newland, said.

Russell-Marti Conservation Services of California, Mo., will remove the mustache from the Churchill sculpture, a process Marianne Marti, company president, said will probably take several hours.

"Sometimes if one isn't careful, you can affect the sculpture just when trying to remove vandalism, and you might end up leaving marks of the vandalism in the process," Marti said.

Visiting the college Wednesday during a 10-day visit to Columbia from her home in Hungary, Palma Korosi said it’s not uncommon to see graffiti in Hungary, which used to be part of the Soviet bloc and thus once behind the iron curtain.

“Graffiti is on every house, on every train, on every column and on every underpass,” Korosi said.

“He’s just adding his thoughts,” she said of the vandalism to the wall sculpture.

But Korosi didn't approve of the marks to the church and the Churchill statue. “Even with the Eastern European mind," she said, "it’s rude.”

 


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