COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Mayor Andrew Ginther has directed the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue outside City Hall.
According to a release from Ginther’s office, the statue is to be removed as soon as possible and placed in storage.
“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,” said Mayor Ginther. “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.”
Ginther says he has also asked the Columbus Art Commission to launch a community-driven process that embraces diversity.
According to the release:
This participatory process will help determine how to best replace the statue and evaluate the diversity and inclusiveness of all public art, including other monuments, statues and art installations, and the artists, identifying gaps. The Commission has also been asked to reimagine other symbols associated with the City, including the seal and flag, and to make recommendations for change.
The Arts Commission will also help determine the final location of the Columbus statue, working with stakeholders and leaving open the opportunity to display it elsewhere, in proper context, to help future generations better understand how the statue played into our country’s ongoing and evolving conversation around race and equity, and why it was ultimately removed.
“By replacing the statue, we are removing one more barrier to meaningful and lasting change to end systemic racism,” said Ginther. “Its removal will allow us to remain focused on critical police reforms and increasing equity in housing, health outcomes, education and employment.”
But members of the Italian community strongly disagree with Ginther’s decision.
“There’s a lot of pride in it. There’s definitely far too much pride to just throw it away,” said Joseph Contino, Public Relations Chairman of the Columbus Piave Club. “I mean you need to ask us our opinion. You can’t just speak for us or not speak at all to us. I’m a little flabbergasted, a little surprised by it.”
Columbus City Council also released a statement regarding the removal of the statue.
Columbus City Council is focused on eradicating systemic racism, police misconduct and social injustice through every means possible. While that is our daily focus, we also hear the raised voices in the streets regarding this monument to Christopher Columbus.
Removal and replacement of the statue will not feed families or end racism. We understand this statue is also a symbol of oppression and enslavement. We support it moving and will work with residents to ensure that new public art at this site and memorials all around our city celebrate the best of us, our cultures and our dreams for the city we are working to build together.
We would also like to express our sincere respect and thanks to the people of our sister city Genoa, Italy, who gifted the piece in 1955. We will work together to keep the shared spirit of friendship and culture alive as we consider how best to use this historical figure to educate future generations.”COLUMBUS CITY COUNCIL
A few Columbus residents also disagree will the removal of the statue.
“I don’t compare this on the same setting as the Confederate generals that lost a war, that physically killed to try to maintain a slavery system. That to me is different than Christopher Columbus.” said Madry Ellis of Columbus.