Christopher Columbus statues targeted amid anti-racism protests in US
As protests against systemic racism and police brutality continue to spread across the United States, several sculptures commemorating colonizers and slavers have been targeted. The latest monument to be targeted is that of Christopher Columbus, the 15th-century Italian explorer who had long been credited with "discovering" the Americas, but in the recent past, has been recognized to have incited the genocide of indigenous Americans.
A 10-foot bronze statue of Columbus was pulled down in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday. The statue was reportedly pulled from its granite base by several dozen people led by a Minnesota-based Native American activist. The activist, Mike Forcia, told Reuters, "It was the right thing to do and it was the right time to do it," referring to the George Floyd protests.
Another statue of the controversial US leader was beheaded in Boston, Massachusetts, the police said on Wednesday. A Columbus statue was also vandalized in downtown Miami. In Richmond, Virginia, a Columbus statue was vandalized with spray paint and dropped in a lake.
A jogger running past the decapitated Boston statue told Agence France-Presse, "Coming out of the Black Lives Matter protests, I think it's a good thing to capitalize on this momentum." The jogger added, "Just like black people in this country, indigenous people have also been wronged. I think this movement is pretty powerful and this is very symbolic."
In recent years, Native American activists have come out in opposition to Columbus and his expeditions that led to the colonization and genocide of their ancestors. Relooking history, several US cities have replaced "Columbus Day," celebrated on October 12, with a tribute to indigenous people. However, Boston and New York—that have large Italian-origin communities—are yet to do the same.
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 after George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin, was acquitted. The movement was reignited after the May killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. Floyd died after a white cop knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd's last words, "I can't breathe," have epitomized Black sentiment.
As the anti-racism protests spread outside of the US, statues of several leaders have been targeted as activists voice their criticism of the leaders' racist past. The statues of Winston Churchill, Edward Colston, King Leopold II, Mahatma Gandhi, et al., have been vandalized.