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Marx tomb attack: ‘Everybody who has loved ones buried here feels targeted’

Security under review after two acts of vandalism

21 February, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

The damage to the Karl Marx memorial in Highgate Cemetery found on Saturday

SECURITY at Highgate Cemetery is set to be reviewed following a second attack on a memorial to political philosopher Karl Marx over the weekend.

Marx’s tomb, based in the eastern cemetery, was attacked on Saturday morning.

The memorial to the German-born political thinker, who lived in Kentish Town, was daubed with slogans saying “Doctrine Of Hate” and “Architect of Genocide” in red paint.

Highgate Cemetery’s chief executive, Dr Ian Dungavell, said they were considering new security procedures and had a number of options they were looking at.

He said: “It feels like an attack towards the cemetery itself. It creates a degree of upset and uncertainty for families who have loved ones buried here. It makes everyone who has a family member buried here feel they too are being targeted.

Dr Dungavell added: “This is a cemetery with people of all hues and beliefs. We have women who are buried in Victorian communal graves. We have firefighters who lost their lives battling the Blitz. We have soldiers from both world wars. The range of people here is huge – and this is an attack on our cemetery that affects the whole site, not a single memorial. There is a lot of anger from visitors and volunteers over this.”

The vandalism followed an attack a fortnight ago in which the memorial plaque – taken from the family’s original grave, which lies elsewhere in the burial ground – was smashed.

Dr Dungavell added: “We hope this will not affect access but we do have to look at this again. There are hundreds of metres of railings round the cemetery and we would be very surprised if the person responsible had come in through the main gates. We believe they must have scaled the fences. Options could include anti-climb paint, for example. CCTV is often considered to be an answer and we will look at it, but this is contentious as this is a place people come to visit loved ones.”

In 1970, a pipe bomb was placed at the base of the marble plinth and exploded, causing damage which can still be seen. At the time, far-right group the National Front claimed responsibility.

Dr Dungavell said: “We could look at having CCTV targeted at the Marx memorial, but unless it is constantly monitored, we would rely on recorded images for evidence and people could wear hoods and disguises. It may act as a deterrent.”

He added: “The other options would be to make the place like a fortress, but this is meant to be a landscape of love and of remembrance. We don’t want to be forced by such terrible acts to change the sense of what makes the cemetery a special place.”

While Dr Dungavell arrived early enough on Saturday morning to be able to scrub off much of the paint, as it was still wet, some still remains.

The Marx Memorial Trust, responsible for its upkeep, is now considering steps to repair the landmark.

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