Statues of Christopher Columbus were damaged in Boston and Richmond, Va., as protesters angered by the death of George Floyd have continued to direct some of their frustration toward monuments, including Confederate statues, that they consider to be symbols of racism.
In Boston, the head of a statue of Columbus in the city’s North End neighborhood was removed overnight on Tuesday, and pieces of it were found nearby, Sgt. Detective John Boyle of the Boston police said on Wednesday. Detectives were investigating the incident, he said.
In Richmond, Va., on Tuesday evening, a Columbus statue was torn down and tossed into a lake in a city park where protesters had gathered for a demonstration in support of Indigenous peoples.
“We stand in solidarity with black and brown communities that are tired of being murdered by an out-of-control, militarized and violent police force,” the Richmond Indigenous Society, which took part in the rally, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“As for the statue,” the society added, “it seems very appropriate that it ended up in a lake.”
Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston said at a news conference on Wednesday that the damaged Columbus statue would be removed and stored while city officials discuss whether it should be returned to its location in Christopher Columbus Park, where the six-foot statue had stood atop a five-foot base since 1979.
“We are going to be taking the statue down this morning and putting it into storage to assess the damage of the statue,” Mr. Walsh said. “This particular statue has been subject of repeated vandalism here in Boston and, given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue.”
About 1,000 protesters attended the rally at Byrd Park in Richmond, Va., where the Columbus statue was damaged. Demonstrators carried signs that said “This land is Powhatan land” and “Columbus represents genocide,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The statue was spray-painted, set on fire and thrown into a lake in the 287-acre park, according to WWBT-TV. Near the bank of the lake where the statue was submerged, someone placed a sign with a drawing of a headstone and a message: “Racism, you will not be missed.”
The statue was removed from the lake on Wednesday. The police and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department did not immediately respond to inquiries about the statue on Wednesday.
The statue, which was dedicated in December 1927, was the first statue of Columbus erected in the South, according to the Times-Dispatch.
Native Americans have been calling for states to replace Columbus Day, which is celebrated the second Monday in October, with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They have said that Columbus’ discovery of the New World led to the genocide of Indigenous populations in the Americas.
The Richmond statue was located about two miles from the city’s Monument Avenue, where statues of the Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were marked last week.
On June 4, Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia announced plans to remove the Lee statue, which is on state land. Members of the Richmond City Council this week unanimously voiced their support to remove four other Confederate statues from Monument Avenue, a move that had long been debated but had found renewed support as the recent protests have continued.
Many other Confederate monuments across the country have also become targets in recent weeks, with protesters damaging and toppling statues from their bases.
In Norfolk, Va., on May 30, protesters climbed a 15-foot figure of a Confederate soldier and spray-painted its base. In Charleston, S.C., “BLM,” for Black Lives Matter, and “Traitors” were spray-painted in red on the base of the Confederate Defenders of Charleston statue. In North Carolina, a Confederate monument at the State Capitol in Raleigh was marked with a black “X.”
The mayor of Birmingham, Ala., also ordered the removal of a Confederate statue from a public park last week.