RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A statue honoring Brazil’s first black clown was vandalized with a swastika at a public park.
Police have no suspects in the vandalism this week of the statue of Benjamin de Oliveira in the countryside city of Para de Minas.
Known as the most famous clown in Brazil in the first half of the 20th century, de Oliveira created the circus-theater in the country. He was born in 1870 as a slave and as a free citizen worked as an actor, composer and singer. Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888.
“The clown has always been a symbol of resistance against prejudice, discrimination and racism, ridiculing his persecutors through humor,” Brazilian Rabbi Uri Lam told JTA. “No wonder great comedians and clowns were Jews, blacks or gypsies. Hatred will not jeopardize dialogue, coexistence and the rich exchange between religious and ethnic communities.”
The culture secretary in Para de Minas told the G1 news website said the municipality “is making every effort to reach out and find the perpetrator of this act of vandalism.”