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Peace vigil and rally in Davis to reinstate vandalized Mahatma Gandhi statue

Davis, CA, Feb 3, 2021: On 26th January 2021, some anti-social elements vandalized the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the City of Davis, California USA. The statue in Davis’ Central Park of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the independence leader and father of India, was found vandalized on the grass next to its plinth. A large number of peace-loving community members choose peace over violence, love over hatred, and rallied at Central Park at City of Davis California on Sunday, Jan 31st, 2021 at 11:30 AM in support of Reinstating Gandhi Statue & condemning the hatred. Hundreds of people urged the City of Davis Administration to find the culprits and bring them to justice and call upon the entire world to rise as one entity and destroy the nefarious designs of these hate mongers. They also urged the City of Davis Administration to reinstate the statue at the earliest and provide adequate protection in the future.

This car rally and peace vigil was co-hosted by Gandhi Statue for Peace Committee Davis, India Association of Davis (IAD), Indian Association of Sacramento (IAS) & the peace-loving community at large. The participants were from regions including but not limited to Davis, Sacramento, Greater Sacramento, and Bay Area. The rally started by singing the National Anthem of the USA. The cars were decorated with posters showing their support for the Mahatma Gandhi statue. 

The Government of India and the City of Davis have both denounced the vandalism of the Mahatma Gandhi statue. In a statement released by the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs said “it strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice” and has called upon the U.S. Department of State to investigate the incident.

The White House condemns the recent vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in California’s Davis, said Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. “We would certainly have concerns about the desecration of monuments of (Mahatma) Gandhi. We would condemn the desecration and watch it closely,” Psaki said during a briefing on Monday. 

Davis mayor Gloria Partida attended the Gandhi Statue vigil along with vice-mayor Lucas Frerichs and city council members Dan Carson and Will Arnold. The City of Davis issued a statement on the matter that “The City of Davis condemns the vandalism that destroyed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Central Park. We do not support any actions that include the destruction of property. We sympathize with those who are grieving the destruction of the statue and promise a thorough investigation and full accountability for those who committed this crime”.

“We condemn this cowardly desecration and call upon the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to investigate this hate crime, as it was likely done with the intention of intimidating the community,” said HAF California Advocacy Director Easan Katir.

If we have learned nothing from the tragic events of recent weeks it is that senseless acts of hatred and violence are never the answer, which Gandhi and my father affirmed through fasting and their lifetimes of struggle. The statue that was desecrated in Davis symbolizes the truth Gandhi expressed: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Let us reject this act of intolerance and vandalism, said Paul F. Chavez, President, Cesar Chavez Foundation & Son of Cesar Chavez.

I am in full support of IAS denouncing the vandalism of the Gandhi statue. Gandhi stood for peace through non-violence. This vigil was important to the Indian community as we as a Nation and communities around California State, need to practice unity and understanding, said Chris Clark the President of Folsom Cordova Unified School District Board of Education.

“In California, Davis is a mega college-town dominated by bright students and scholars. Such sudden insurrection and vandalizing a statue of national importance is quite disturbing, highly unacceptable, especially during these unprecedented times. We want perpetrators of this criminal act to be brought to justice. said Vikram Rao,” President of Student Association at UC Davis.

It is shocking and disappointing to read of the vandalization of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi by unknown assailants in Davis, California. Gandhi was a man of peace and goodwill who inspired millions of people around the world — including Martin Luther King Jr. — to practice nonviolence. For a gifted monument to his memory to be violently debased and destroyed is a cowardly act of ignorant people. It is a shameful mark against the good name of the community of Davis and the perpetrators should be found and punished. The Mahatma was cut down by a violent man in 1948, and now once more he suffers the ignominy of a mindless and irresponsible attack, said Prof. Robert Sellers, former Chair of World Parliament of Religions. This is the same organization that was addressed by Swami Vivekananda in 1893.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the desecration of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Davis, California. Gandhiji is universally known and revered as one of the great icons of peace and harmony, and the fine statue erected with the help of the Government of India and the city of Davis was a civic reminder of his timeless importance and relevance. It is not just the Indian community in the USA and the world who feel violated by this senseless act of hate and of violence. All lovers of peace and civic order have also been attacked. It is my fervent hope and prayer, as a longtime student and admirer of Gandhi, that the perpetrators of this crime will be apprehended and brought to justice. But beyond that, I hope that this vandalism will serve as an occasion for making his universal message of peace and love better known. As he himself famously said: ”When I despair, I remember that all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.”, said Joseph Prabhu Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus) at California State University, also Los Angeles Trustee Emeritus – Parliament of the World’s Religions.

“It was a tragic act to destroy the Gandhi statue in Davis. Gandhi stands for love and nonviolence and justice for all. The world needs Gandhi’s message now more than ever with wars raging in so many parts of the world,” said David Hartsough from the San Francisco Friends Meeting group, and co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, and also Director of Peaceworkers organization.

Gandhi is our national figure, world figure. He was for peace, he was for non-violence, and he is the father figure for India for that actually, said Sateesh Nagaraj, of the Indian Association of Sacramento.

Greater Sacramento residents have come out in big numbers in support of Gandhi’s statue reinstatement and honor the legacy of Gandhi, MLK Jr, and all others, said a spokesperson for the pro Statue rally & vigil event. “Hundreds have come in person to condemn the hate crime – Gandhi’s Statue Vandalism at Davis,” the spokesperson asserted. The representatives from various regional Indian Associations and local advocacy groups including APAPA and OCA have come and extended their support. 

The participants demanded strict punishment to culprits responsible for tearing down Gandhi’s statue at Davis, and not spare the mastermind behind these activities.

Venkat, one of the participants, said “Indian Americans believe that Gandhi stood for peace, love, harmony, and non-violence, inspired millions across the globe including the civil rights leaders MLK Jr, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and more., and hence are supporting the reinstatement of Gandhi’s statue at Davis.”

Representatives from UC Davis Indian Community said “India has been showing peace and unity in diversity for thousands of years, and this is not changing. Most people of all religions are living harmoniously even now. Just some vested interests are trying to create confusion among certain people in the USA and parts of the rest of the World misbeliefs about Gandhi, and are instigating people to indulge in violent responses such as damaging of public properties such as Gandhi’s statue at Davis and trying to bring bad reputation to the Indian Community who are in believers of Gandhi’s values and a peace mission.”

Mahatma Gandhi is inescapable in the world today in order to solve our problem in a peaceful and nonviolent way. None of the protestors are from the city of Davis and City Administration should not take their views into account as they don’t have any stake in the city of Davis, said Retired UC Davis Professor Sham Goyal, who is lead of Gandhi Statue for Peace Committee.

I believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence, peace, and harmony for the greater good; he proved that we achieve anything in this world through these values. I denounce the vandalism of Gandhiji’s statue, I sincerely request Davis City Administration to find the culprits sooner than later and bring them to justice, said Yedukondalu “YK” Chalamcherla, Folsom City Councilmember.

For over six decades, Mahatma Gandhi has stood as a beacon of hope for those that seek peace and harmony in our turbulent world. This unfortunate incident should not be tolerated, and I strongly urge the City of Davis to begin the restoration process immediately, said Siri Pulipati, the Councilmember from the City of Rancho Cordova.

“Our voices heard at the Davis”, said one of the peace vigil participants Manas Ray – who came from a Bengali family who migrated from East Pakistan during partition, and has been dealing with refugee issues for several years. 

Mahatma Gandhi’s statue vandalism is nothing but an attack on peace, he taught the world about nonviolence and coined the word Ahimsa. He is a global icon for peace and non-violence. Many great leaders like Dr King Jr, Nelson Mandela followed Gandhi’s principles in their freedom movements and succeeded. We want law enforcement to identify the culprits and prosecute them appropriately. Want to see the Gandhi Statue back in Central Park ASAP, said Bhaskar Vempati, IAS President.

“Greater Sacramento American Indians welcomed Gandhi, and I came here to extend my support for reinstating Gandhi’s statue at Davis”, said Vraj Thakkar, Youth speaker & Student Senate President, Associated Students of Folsom Lake College. A not to be named participant said “Threats were posted on Facebook if the Gandhi Statue is re-installed at Davis then they will take it down again! It is surely an instance of hate crime. The City of Davis and Divis Police Department shall take action on those anti-social elements.”

Many local volunteers and supporters have helped in conducting Gandhi’s Statue Reinstatement Rally & Vigil event successfully at Davis. Organizers thanked all who have come to rally and visit for reinstating Gandhi Statue rally and vigil. Organizers appreciated the participants for maintaining peace, calmness & professionalism despite aggression by violent forces. A police complaint has been logged with Davis Police Department, citing an aggressor from the opposing group for behaving inappropriately with event organizers

The 6-foot-tall, 950-pound bronze Gandhi’s statue was gifted in 2016 to the City of Davis by the Government of India. After a public comment period, the David City Council voted 3-2 to move ahead and install the statue. “It’s a symbol of peace,” Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said at that time. An unveiling ceremony was held on Oct. 2, 2016, Gandhi’s birthday, which is commemorated each year as an International Day of Nonviolence. Since then, the statue has been a target of repeated protests and vandalism. Sham Goyal, a retired UC Davis professor who has lived in Davis for 52 years, is the man behind the installation of the Gandhi statue. In the vigil event, several aggressive young members appeared arguing with 70 plus-year-old Goyal. The members from statue opposing members kept shouting against Gandhi, India, accusing Indian Media, and kept shouting at the pro Statue vigil group and guest speakers and often disrupting their planned media speeches using their handheld megaphones and bells.

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