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Philadelphia moves to dismantle Christopher Columbus statue

Statues, monuments vandalized amid Black Lives Matter protests

Statues originally under fire were Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the South due to the treatment of African-Americans, but the anger has spread to monuments of all backgrounds many of which have been torn down by protesters, and others have been officially removed.

Mayor Jim Kenney announced in a Twitter post that Philadelphia is moving to dismantle the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza on South Broad Street.

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He tweeted on Wednesday: “Part of reckoning with the legacy of systemic racism means reconsidering what figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces. On July 22, the City will ask the Philadelphia Art Commission to approve the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue.”

In Philadelphia, a city with a deep Italian heritage, Columbus is celebrated with an annual holiday parade, and supporters said they considered him an emblem of their heritage.

The city added about the announcement: “Christopher Columbus became a symbol of Italian communities’ contributions to U.S. history, but 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. In recent weeks, clashes between those individuals who support the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated to a concerning public safety situation. It is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.”

City worker cover the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

City worker cover the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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In recent weeks, a group of people, some with guns and others with baseball bats, gathered around the statue in south Philadelphia, saying they intended to protect it from vandals amid recent protests — despite criticism from the mayor.

The protectors said they hoped not only to ward off any vandals but to send a message to the mayor that they wouldn’t approve of removing the statue in the middle of the night — as the mayor did with the statue of former mayor Frank Rizzo from a building near City Hall earlier this month.

City workers cover the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

City workers cover the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in the South Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Across the nation, statues of Columbus are often vandalized on Columbus Day in October as the 15th-century explorer has become a polarizing figure. Native American advocates have also long pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

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