On the night of June 9th during a protest in Richmond, Virginia, the statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down and thrown into the lake by protestors.
What We Know:
- Protestors gathered at Byrd Park in Richmond Virginia in wake of the death of George Floyd. As the protests continued within the park, chants for the removal of the statue quickly began to grow. Around 8:30pm, 2 hours after the protestors gathered, demonstrators equipped with ropes tore down the statue of the 15th century colonizer. They proceeded to light the statue on fire and throw it into a nearby lake. Coupled with this, the message “Columbus represents genocide” was spray painted onto the platform which once held the statue.
- The statue was first dedicated to the town of Richmond in December 1927 and was the first statue of Christopher Columbus to be erected in the South. The incident comes only days after the toppling of the statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. In Boston, another statue of Columbus was vandalized by protestors.
- Earlier that night, a similar act was performed on the Christopher Columbus statue located on Boston’s Atlantic Avenue. Protesters knocked the head off the statue which was later found in a waterfront park nearby the city’s traditionally Italian North End early Wednesday morning, according to local broadcasts. This is not the first time the Boston statue has been vandalized. Police are currently investigating both cases, but no word has been made about any arrest.
A @7News photographer was the first one to discover the head had been knocked off the Christopher Columbus statue along the waterfront in the North End. Boston Police were on scene investigating later overnight. pic.twitter.com/YIIHUiPua9
— Korey O'Brien (@koreyobrienTV) June 10, 2020
- Statues of Christopher Columbus have been erected all over the US, but he has recently become a widely controversial figure due to his role in the kidnapping, killing, and stealing from the the indigenous people in America and the Caribbean Islands. Native American advocates and many others have pushed for Christopher Columbus Day to be replaced with Indigenous People’s day for years over his actions during the 15th century.
- Chelsea Higgs-Wise, an Richmond activist, discussed the shared struggle of Indigenous people and African Americans and how the idolization of Columbus and the statue disrespected and undermined that struggle. She states that to tackle this issue “we have to start with the people who stood first on this land”.
- Another speaker, Joseph Rogers, talked about the impact of white supremacy and how institutionalized racism has affected both groups. Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, discussed the removal of the statue, not as a way of “hijacking” the protest against police brutality, but as a way to stand in solidarity with others.
The toppling of these statues comes with the US Navy announcing a change with the retirement of the Confederate battle flag. This marks the second branch of the US military to do this, following the US marines. They leadership of the US army has also stated as to being open to changing the names of bases named after Confederate generals.