Philadelphia officials to request removal of Christopher Columbus statue

Philadelphia officials will call for the removal of a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus next month, the city’s mayor Jim Kenney (D) announced Wednesday.

The mayor said in a Wednesday statement that “Like many communities across the country, Philadelphia is experiencing a reckoning about the legacy of systemic racism and oppression in this country. Part of addressing that history is putting a spotlight on what historical figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces.”

Protests over the police killing of George Floyd have erupted across the country for weeks, and many have called for the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, Columbus and others.

Kenney said that the city will officially “ask the Philadelphia Art Commission to approve removal of the statue from Marconi Plaza” on July 22. The city will accept public input until the day before the request.

The mayor called the explorer “a symbol of Italian communities’ contributions to U.S. history,” but added that “scholars and historians have uncovered first-hand documentation establishing that his arrival in the Americas also marked the beginning of the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people.”

Protests have broken out around the statue in Philadelphia in recent weeks, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. On Tuesday, armed men physically clashed with Black Lives Matters protesters after the demonstrators marched to the plaza where the statute sits.

Kenney called the clashes “a concerning public safety situation [and] a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.” 

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“The City is committed to finding a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture, while respecting the histories and circumstances of others that come from different backgrounds,” he said. 

Statues in Minneapolis, Boston and other cities have been targeted by protesters across the country. In Richmond, Va., protesters toppled the statue and dragged it into a lake in a city park earlier this month.

Tags Black Lives Matter George Floyd

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