2 Sydney statues of British explorer James Cook vandalized

FILE – In this June 12, 2020, file photo, police guard a statue of British explorer James Cook as protesters gather in Sydney, to support U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd. An Australian state government leader said on Monday, June 15, 2020 she was considering tougher laws to protect monuments after two statues of British explorer James Cook were vandalized in Sydney. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

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SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian state government leader said on Monday she was considering tougher laws to protect monuments after two statues of British explorer James Cook were vandalized in Sydney.

Two women were charged with defacing a statue with spray paint in downtown Hyde Park over Saturday night. Another statue was discovered spray painted in the eastern suburb of Randwick on Sunday morning in an unrelated attack, police said.

Cities around the world are taking steps to remove statues that represent cultural or racial oppression.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would consider toughening laws to deter future vandalism.

“I wish it didn’t come to this and I want to stress that it’s only a very, very small percentage of the population that’s engaging in this activity, the vast majority of us don’t condone it, we think it’s disrespectful, it’s un-Australian,” she told reporters.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week apologized for words he used last week to reject calls for his Sydney electoral district of Cook to be renamed.

Cook came ashore in the district in 1770 in what was to become the site of the first British colony in Australia.

Morrison apologized for saying Australia has been colonized without slavery after critics pointed out that tens of thousands of South Pacific islanders had been forced to labor on Australian sugar cane plantations in the 19th century and Australian indigenous people had been forced to work for wages that were never paid.

A part-time employee of the minor Greens party, Xiaoran Shi, 28, and her alleged accomplice Charmaine Morrison-Mills, 27, were released on bail from a Sydney court on Sunday on charges of damaging property and possessing a graffiti implement over the Hyde Park statue.

Greens state lawmaker David Shoebridge, for whom Shi works, said he was aware of the allegations.

“They were not engaged in employment at the time of the incident which occurred well outside of work hours,” Shoebridge said in a statement.

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