Statue of white supremacist, former SC governor vandalized

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Statue of "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman in Columbia, South Carolina, taken in July 2012. (Source: Billy Hathorn, Wikimedia Commons)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Authorities are investigating the vandalism of a statue of a segregationist South Carolina governor as the state grapples with heightened tension over Confederate symbols in the wake of a massacre at a black church.

Red paint dripped Tuesday from the statute of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli says an officer saw what appeared to be a red paintball on the statue during morning rounds. Workers were cleaning the statue Tuesday afternoon.

Tillman, a noted white supremacist, spent three decades — from 1890 to 1918 — as governor and as a U.S. senator.

Iacobelli says more officers have been posted at the downtown complex, where a Confederate flag has been a focus of protests since the fatal shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston on June 17.

By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press

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