A statue of Christopher Columbus on the south side of the City Hall in Columbus, Ohio, will be removed as soon as possible and placed in storage, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced Thursday.
Ginther ordered the Columbus Art Commission to replace the statue with a new piece of artwork that will better reflect “the people of Columbus and offers a shared vision for the future.”
“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression, and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past,” the mayor said in a news release. “Now is the right time to replace this statue with artwork that demonstrates our enduring fight to end racism and celebrate the themes of diversity and inclusion.”
The Columbus statue arrived as a gift in 1955 from Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
The city is named after the explorer, but since the George Floyd protests several petitions pushed the city to be renamed “Flavortown.” Historians have criticized Columbus since the late 20th century for initiating colonization and for abuse, enslavement, and subjugation of Native Americans.
Protesters have been attacking statues of Columbus all over the nation in a recent move against police brutality since the police custody death of Floyd.
Ginther called the replacement of the statue a step closer “to meaningful and lasting change to end systemic racism.”
“Its removal will allow us to remain focused on critical police reforms and increasing equity in housing, health outcomes, education, and employment,” he added.
The move has been criticized by some Italian Americans, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said Columbus is an important figure that symbolizes Italian Americans’ contribution to the nation and that the statues are works of art that forge goodwill.
Activists, on the other hand, hailed the mayor’s move, saying the statues depict the explorer’s genocidal cleansing of the New World and exploitation of Native Americans, USA Today reported.
The Columbus Piave Club said in a statement that as “an Italian community (Columbus Italian Club and Abruzzi Club included) have been COMPLETELY locked out of this conversation and completely ignored considering we facilitated the statue’s acquisition, delivery, and dedication in 1955.”
“From an administration that preaches inclusion and diversity, we as a community find this extremely ironic,” the statement continued.
The Arts Commission will help the city to decide “the final disposition of the Columbus statue,” according to the release.
The release stated the opportunity to display the statue elsewhere remains open to help future generations better understand the role the statue played in the ongoing and evolving conversation around race and equity, and why it was ultimately removed.
Several statues of Columbus have been removed or vandalized across the United States in recent weeks, along with monuments honoring those who fought for the South in the Civil War.
A statue of Columbus was removed in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 16.
On June 10, protesters pulled down a statue in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and vandalized one in Miami, Florida, while one day earlier, a monument to Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, was thrown into a lake.
Reuters contributed to this report.