A sculpture of an elk that has graced downtown Portland, Oregon, for 120 years is to be taken down by city authorities, after protesters set the statue on fire. Police have asked the public to help identify the vandals.

On Wednesday night, demonstrators defaced the seemingly benign statue and lit a series of fires around its base, quickly engulfing the horned effigy in flames.

Portland Police said in a statement that the city’s Regional Arts Council had determined that the damage to the base was “so severe” that the landmark would have to be removed for public safety reasons. Officials fear the statue could topple over and injure someone, it explained.

The fire damage to Portland’s historic downtown elk statue by antifa militants is so severe that it will have to be removed. Nobody was arrested during the arson attack that lasted for hours last night. @PortlandPolice are asking public for help.

The police have released a series of before-and-after photographs. In one, a black-clad protester is seen “riding” the animal as flames dance around it. A picture taken the next morning shows the blackened base, as well as an unidentified man apparently passed out below. Portland authorities are asking for help in identifying those responsible for the vandalism.

The elk statue in downtown Portland is now fully engulfed in flames.

It’s still unclear why the mob targeted the seemingly benign sculpture, donated by former mayor David P Thompson back in 1900 to commemorate the elk herds that once populated the region. Social-media users responding to videos of the vandalism joked that the animal was likely a “slave owner” or a “white supremacist.”

Statues across the United States have been defaced and toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters. Although demonstrators initially targeted Confederate monuments, they have moved on to vandalizing landmarks commemorating historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln, the US president who ended slavery.

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