In at least four instances of vandalism over the past couple of days, rioters protesting the alleged racism of Christopher Columbus have destroyed, defaced and burned statues of the explorer in Boston, Massachusetts, Richmond, Virginia, Portsmouth, Virginia and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
A marble white statue of Columbus was beheaded very early in the morning on Wednesday, May 10 at a park in Boston, Massachusetts’ North End. Vandals beheaded it around 12:30AM, and officers responded to the reported instance of vandalism shortly thereafter.
According to the Boston Herald, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the city will reevaluate whether it wants the statue of Columbus given the tensions surrounding it. “Given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue,” Mayor Walsh said in a press conference on Wednesday night.
In the meantime, the headless statue of Christopher Columbus has been completely removed from the park.
This statue has been vandalized before. According to one news report, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was spray painted onto its base in 2015, and it was also beheaded in 2006.
In Richmond, Virginia’s Byrd park, anti-racism protestors tore down another statue of Christopher Columbus before wrapping it with an American flag, lighting the flag on fire and then tossing it into a lake. Video of the incident (warning: explicit language) shows dozens of protesters cheering as they dragged the statue towards the lake while the flag was still on fire.
In yet another incident, dozens of vandals destroyed a statue of Columbus in Portsmouth, Virginia. One of the protesters was seriously injured and hospitalized after the weighty statue fell on top of him. One witness to the protests said, “It came and fully hit him in the head, and we could see that his skull was actually showing. He was convulsing on the ground.”
And in St. Paul, the capital city of Minnesota, vandals tore down a statue of Columbus on the grounds of the state Capitol.
According to local news station KSTP, one state patrol officer met the protesters prior to them tearing it down and explained to them the process for legally removing a statue. After protesters rejected a piece of paper from the officer explaining the proper steps, the officer left, and the protesters quickly tore Columbus down.
Minnesota lieutenant governor Peggy Flannagan released a statement about the incident supporting the unlawful removal. “I can’t say I’m sad the statue of Christopher Columbus is gone. I’m not,” Lt. Gov. Flannagan said.
It’s unclear why law enforcement officers did not step in to protect any of the statues prior to their destruction. So far, no suspects have been named and no arrests have been made in any of the instances of vandalism.
The debate over whether to remove statues to monumental people of history, despite their mixed and questionable past, is likely to continue long into the future.
Proponents of tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus also believe we should take down memorials to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson since such honor should not be given to men who owned slaves.
Others argue, however, that slavery was ubiquitous in world history several centuries ago, and that we should not judge the moral character of otherwise great men through 21st century eyes.
Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wondered aloud about the purpose of “cancel culture” on the Senator floor on Thursday. “Are we going to tear the Washington Monument down? Are we going to rename it the Obelisk of Wokeness?” Sen. Cotton remarked. “And what are we going to call this city? Can’t call it Washington. Can’t call it Columbia. We have to come up with new names all around.”
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