Barre Granite Workers Protest Memorial - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Barre Granite Workers Protest Memorial

Barre, Vermont - November 8, 2007

Vermont granite workers are protesting the construction of a national memorial honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Construction has already begun on the four acre memorial site in Washington, D.C. It's located near the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. A 30 foot tall sculpture of Dr. King will be the centerpiece of the property, but it won't be sculpted by American carvers. Civil rights activists say it contradicts everything that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for.

Gilbert Young, a civil rights activist and founder of the group "King is Ours," says, "As Americans, if we go through with this, we will be the laughing stock of the world."

The A 30 foot sculpture honoring Martin Luther King will be constructed in China, by a Chinese sculptor, using granite from China and America.

"You can't use slave labor to honor a man who stood against slavery and Jim Crowism and everything he stood for, and if you're going to use that it's almost laughable," says Young.

Barre sculptor George Kurjanowicz agrees. The Martin Luther King Foundation visited his Barre studio last year, and expressed interest in having him do the work.

"They left, and I tried to get in touch with them again and the telephone number didn't work. The email addresses didn't work, and I didn't get in touch with them and they didn't get it touch with me. It's like they disappeared off the face of the earth," says Kurjanowicz.

Kurjanowicz says no one in the United States was ever asked to bid on the project, though $10 million in federal funds was allocated for the work.

Barre Granite Manufacturers are furious. They say the stone is being quarried and carved by Chinese laborers who are being paid less than two dollars a day.

"To me it doesn't matter what the country is. If you're going to do a sculpture about a man who fought for freedom and dignity in the United States it should be done here," said John Castaldo, Executive Director of the Barre Granite Association.

A spokesperson from the memorial foundation tells us the Chinese sculptor is working with two African American consultants on the sculpture, and the project is being overseen by several American Firms. That spokesperson also says that the Chinese artist was chosen after an international search for a sculptor with proven experience to carve large scale projects.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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