Students behind past Douglass statue damage offer help in recent case

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John Boedicker calls his past mistake a wake-up call

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — John Boedicker calls it a drunken mistake that served as a wake-up call.

A year and a half ago Boedicker and fellow St. John Fisher College student Charles Milks tried to steal a Frederick Douglass statue off of Alexander Street.

They agreed to participate in a program designed to teach them about Douglass and race relations.

MORE | Frederick Douglass family on statue vandalism: ‘Clear signal to make change now’

“The person I am today in regards to what I was and what I had to do to just become a better person from that, I am grateful, as weird as that can be interpreted,” Boedicker said.

Several community leaders helped guide the two through thoughtful discussion and a tour of Douglass statues around Rochester.

“Douglass had the tough part in his life where he probably saw that the life that he would have hoped for himself he probably wasn’t going to see in his lifetime because of how society was back then,” Boedicker said. “I would just say he had the most hope of anybody and it really pushed him through his whole life.”

Even though Boedicker says he did what he did without race on his mind, he now says he can understand how hurtful it was.

MORE | Frederick Douglass statue vandalized on anniversary of ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July’ speech

That’s partly why he reached out and offered help after he heard of the most recent vandalism of another Douglass statue at Maplewood Park.

“Compared to this most recent incident at least we were able to take the fall and learn from it and grow and move on and  become adults after it whereas we don’t have that clarity with this situation,” Boedicker said.

When Boedicker and Milks and others begin to install a new statue at the Maplewood site, News 8 will be there.

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