Christopher Columbus statue removed in San Francisco

By: AFP      Published: 01:14 AM, 19 Jun, 2020
Christopher Columbus statue removed in San Francisco
–File photo

A statue of Christopher Columbus was taken down in San Francisco on Thursday because the explorer's actions "do not deserve to be venerated," city officials said.

The move comes shortly after California officials announced a different statue of Columbus would be removed from state capital Sacramento, and follows a wave of orders involving historical monuments as Americans grapple with the legacy of racism.

"It was removed because it doesn't align with San Francisco's values or our commitment to racial justice," arts commission official Rachelle Axel told AFP.

The statue was removed early Thursday under direction of San Francisco's mayor, and placed in storage.

It had been vandalized three times in the last week. A protest had been planned for Friday to bring down the 2-ton statue, presenting a health risk for citizens, Axel added. 

"At this important time in our country, we are all examining the ways in which institutional and structural racism permeate our society. Public art is no exception," said the San Francisco Arts Commission in a statement.

"In cities across the US, many historic monuments are being taken down because the actions and ideas symbolized do not deserve to be venerated. Representation matters."

The May 25 killing of George Floyd, an African American, by a white police officer in Minneapolis ignited mass protests for racial justice and triggered a national soul-searching of the United States' colonial and pro-slavery past.

The 1492 arrival of Columbus in the "New World" has long been celebrated in the United States, but the Italian explorer's legacy has more recently been revisited over the brutal treatment of native Americans by European colonizers.

On Tuesday, California officials released a statement calling Columbus "a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations." 

Announcing the removal of the Sacramento statue, the statement said its presence in the capitol building since 1883 "is completely out of place today."