Columbus is torn down, set on fire, tossed in the lake
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
A statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, was torn down by protesters, set on fire and then thrown into a lake. The figure was toppled less than two hours after protesters gathered in the city’s Byrd Park were chanting for the statue to be taken down.
After the figure was removed from its pedestal around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by protesters using several ropes, a sign that reads, “Columbus represents genocide” was placed on the spray-painted foundation that once held the statue. It was then set on fire and rolled into a lake in the park, NBC 12 reported.
There was no police presence in the park, but a police helicopter was seen circling the area after the city-owned figure was torn down, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Earlier during the day, Activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise and other protesters spoke to a crowd gathered at Byrd Park about the struggles of indigenous people and African-Americans in America. “We have to start where it all began,” Higgs-Wise said during her speech. “We have to start with the people who stood first on this land.”
The Columbus statue was dedicated in Richmond in December 1927, and had been the first statue of Christopher Columbus erected in the South, the newspaper reported. Its toppling comes amid national protests over the death of George Floyd and several days after a statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham was pulled from its pedestal in Monroe Park by demonstrators who also used ropes to tear it down.
There has been a nationwide move to convert Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, told the crowd she did not come “to hijack” the protests against police brutality, but to “stand in solidarity” with the people. Another speaker, Joseph Rogers, declared the area “Powhatan land,” and talked about how white supremacy and institutionalized racism has impacted both groups.
In Boston protestors removed the head from a Columbus statue. NBC10 in Boston reported that the same Columbus statue was vandalized five years ago, doused in red paint with the phrase "Black Lives Matter" spray painted onto it.
CBS News in Boston says the statue will be removed Wednesday. Mayor Marty Walsh said it will be put in storage and there will now be conversations about whether it will ever go back up. "The statue in Christopher Columbus Park on Atlantic Avenue was surrounded by crime scene tape early Wednesday morning as the head lay on the ground next to the base," according to CBS News.
A small group of demonstrators toppled a statue of a Confederate general in the the former capital of the Confederacy late Saturday, following a day of largely peaceful protests in the Virginia city.
The statue of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham was pulled from its pedestal in Monroe Park, a Richmond police spokeswoman said. She said she did not know if there were any arrests or damage done to the statue.
A rope had been tied around the Confederate statue, which has stood since 1891, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, adding that someone urinated on the statue after it was pulled down. Photos and video from the newspaper showed the what appeared to be red paint splashed or sprayed on the statue.
In 2017, some of Wickham's descendants urged the city to remove the statue.
Confederate monuments are a major flashpoint in Virginia and elsewhere in the South. Confederate memorials began coming down after a white supremacist killed nine black people at a Bible study in a church in South Carolina in 2015 and then again after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that a state-owned statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would be removed from its perch on the famed Monument Avenue "as soon as possible."
The Lee statue is one of five Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, a prestigious residential street and National Historic Landmark district. Monuments along the avenue have been rallying points during protests in recent days over Floyd's death, and they have been tagged with graffiti, including messages that say "End police brutality" and "Stop white supremacy."
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney last week announced plans to seek the removal of the other Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, which include statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Those statues sit on city land, unlike the Lee statue, which is on state property.
Stoney said he would introduce an ordinance July 1 to have the statues removed. That's when a new law goes into effect, which was signed earlier this year by Northam, that undoes an existing state law protecting Confederate monuments and instead lets local governments decide their fate.
Wickham's statue stood in Monroe Park, about a mile away from the Lee statue and surrounded by the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.
Around the world, statutes come down
Thousands of people took to the streets of European cities Sunday to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with protesters in the English port of Bristol venting their anger at the country's colonial history by toppling a statue of a 17th-century slave trader.
Demonstrators attached ropes to the statue of Edward Colston before pulling it down to cheers and roars of approval from the crowd.
It wasn't the only statute targeted on Sunday. In Brussels, protesters clambered onto the statue of former King Leopold II and chanted "reparations," according to video posted on social media. The word "shame" was also graffitied on the monument, reference perhaps to the fact that Leopold is said to have reigned over the mass death of 10 million Congolese.
Protesters also defaced the statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in central London, crossing out his last name and spray painting "was a racist" underneath. They also taped a Black Lives Matter sign around its mid-section.
The day's demonstration in London had begun around the U.S. Embassy, where thousands congregated — most it seemed wearing masks against the coronavirus — to protest Floyd's brutal death and to shine a light on racial inequalities at home.
"Everyone knows that this represents more than just George Floyd, more than just America, but racism all around the world," said Darcy Bourne, a London-based student.
The protests were mainly peaceful but for the second day running there were some scuffles near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Objects were thrown at police. Police have sent reinforcements and calm appears to have been restored.
Protesters also threw objects at police down the road outside the gates of Parliament, where officers without riot gear formed a line. They were reinforced by riot police who quickly ran toward the scene.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said violence was "simply not acceptable" and urged those protesting to do so lawfully while also maintaining social distancing by remaining two meters (6.5 feet) apart. But most demonstrators didn't heed that call, particularly in front of the U.S. Embassy.
Police said 14 officers were injured Saturday during clashes with protesters in central London that followed a largely peaceful demonstration that had been attended by tens of thousands.
Hundreds of people also formed a densely packed crowd Sunday in a square in central Manchester, kneeling in silence as a mark of respect for George Floyd.
In Hong Kong, about 20 people staged a rally in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday outside the U.S. Consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
"It's a global issue," said Quinland Anderson, a 28-year-old British citizen living in Hong Kong. "We have to remind ourselves despite all we see going on in the U.S. and in the other parts of the world, black lives do indeed matter."
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Rio de Janeiro to protest against racism and police killings of black people on Sunday. The protesters weren't just joining protests against Floyd's death in the U.S., but also denouncing the killing of black people in Rio's favelas.
The most recent case was João Pedro Pinto, 14, who was inside his house on May 18 in Sao Gonçalo, a city in Rio's metropolitan area, when police chasing alleged drug traffickers shot into the house. The protesters on Sunday carried banners reading "Black mothers can't stand crying anymore." In Sao Paulo, another demonstratation ended with clashes between a small group of protesters and the police.
Several dozen demonstrators took part in a Black Lives Matter protest held in Tel Aviv's central Rabin Square. Many wore blue surgical masks but did not observe social distance guidelines.
A rally in Rome's sprawling People's Square was noisy but peaceful, with the majority of protesters wearing masks. Among those present was 26-year-old Ghanaian Abdul Nassir, who is studying for a master's in business management at one of the Italian capital's public universities.
"It's quite unfortunate, you know, in this current 21st century that people of color are being treated as if they are lepers," Nassir said. He said he occasionally has felt racist attitudes, most notably when riding the subway.
"Maybe you're finding a place to stand, and people just keep moving (away) and you'll be, like, 'What?'" Nassir said: "We're strong people but sometimes everyone has a limit."
At one point, the protesters, most of them young and some with children or siblings, took the knee and raised a fist in solidarity with those fighting racism and police brutality.
In Italy's financial capital, Milan, a few thousand protesters gathered in a square outside the central train station Sunday afternoon. Many in the crowd were migrants or children of migrants of African origin.
In Spain, several thousand protesters gathered on the streets of Barcelona and at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.
Many in Madrid carried homemade signs reading "Black Lives Matter," "Human rights for all" and "Silence is pro-racist."
"We are not only doing this for our brother George Floyd," said Thimbo Samb, a spokesman for the group that organized the events in Spain mainly through social media. "Here in Europe, in Spain, where we live, we work, we sleep and pay taxes, we also suffer racism."
Video: A statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond was torn down by protesters, set on fire and then thrown into a lake. WBBT, Richmond via Associated Press.