Statues of Christopher Columbus have been vandalized in two U.S. cities around the Columbus Day holiday.
WJAR reports a monument bearing the Italian explorer’s likeness was splattered in red paint in Providence, Rhode Island, on Monday. A sign saying “Stop Celebrating Genocide” was tied around the pedestal with a chance, and the word “genocide” was also spray-painted on the base.
#BREAKING – Vandals target Providence’s Christopher Columbus statue https://t.co/GywW76S86b pic.twitter.com/JtCsy42RXN
— WPRI 12 (@wpri12) October 14, 2019
Columbus Day is a federal holiday commemorating Columbus’ voyage and arrival in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. However, six states and more than 100 American communities have since changed the holiday’s name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, as Columbus “discovered” a land already inhabited by millions of Native Americans, and European settlers led to the death of much of the indigenous population.
“To the people that did do that, you put the blood back on his hands,” Priscilla Jackson, a Native American woman in R.I., told WJAR of the vandalized statue.
The San Francisco Gate reports a statue of Columbus was similarly vandalized with red paint on Sunday in San Francisco, California. Graffiti on its base said “Destroy all monuments of genocide” and “Kill all colonizers.”
Christopher Columbus statue in SF vandalized https://t.co/w7XTxLaBSX pic.twitter.com/2OPeFo7S66
— SFGate (@SFGate) October 14, 2019
Both statues have since been cleaned up.
Police are investigating the vandalism in both cities. This is the third time in nine years that the Providence statue has been defaced.
UPDATE: The Columbus statue is being cleaned, and now the streets are running red with paint. I’ll have reaction coming up live at noon on @wpri12. pic.twitter.com/SyR5qahuUS
— Alexandra Leslie (@AlexandraLeslie) October 14, 2019
In Syracuse, a debate continues about how Central New York should remember Columbus. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said he has no immediate plans to change Columbus Circle or to rename the October holiday, but ideas that have been proposed by a InterFaith Works-led group — which includes Onondaga Nation members, Italians-Americans, scholars, ministers, community leaders and educators — include keeping the statue, recreating Columbus Circle to include Haudenosaunee history, and holding a citywide vote to change the holiday.
Walsh said he understands some see the downtown statue as a celebration of Italian-Americans. The holiday and statues celebrating Columbus came about in the early 20th century to combat discrimination that many Italians faced after immigrating to the United States.
“That same monument and that same celebration is a reminder of the oppression that were faced by native people, particularly the Onondaga Nation, both in the past and today,” he said.
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