Christopher Columbus statues toppled in Richmond, beheaded in Boston
Statues of Christopher Columbus were targeted by protesters in Massachusetts and Virginia on Tuesday night in an act of solidarity with indigenous peoples.
The 8-foot-tall memorial to the explorer in Richmond, Va., was pulled down with ropes and dragged roughly 200 yards to nearby Landing at Foundation Lake, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was also reportedly briefly lit on fire.
The base of the statue was covered in graffiti, and protesters held signs reading “This land is Powhatan land” and “Columbus represents genocide.”
A makeshift headstone poster was also placed in front of the sunken statute in the water that read, “Racism. You will not be missed.”
BREAKING: A statue of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park has been removed by protesters and dragged into the lake. This is a developing story. pic.twitter.com/yFjiUdPTMk
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) June 10, 2020
The figure was reportedly the first statue of Columbus erected in the South, according to the newspaper. It was dedicated in December 1927.
The statue’s toppling came after demonstrators in the city were seen marching down Arthur Ashe Boulevard, one of hundreds of demonstrations across the U.S. protesting racial injustice and police brutality following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis late last month.
Protesters in Richmond noted that African Americans and indigenous peoples both face white supremacy and institutionalized racism in the United States since Columbus first arrived on the continent.
Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, spoke to the crowd earlier in the night, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“This continent is built on the blood and the bones of our ancestors, but it is built off the backs and the sweat and the tears and the blood and the bones of Africans,” Bolin said. “We’re not here to hijack your movement. We’re here to stand in solidarity.”
Another speaker, Joseph Rogers, referenced genocide committed by white colonizers like Columbus against Native Americans.
“We cannot fight white supremacy without recognizing and uplifting one of its earliest victims on this continent,” Rogers told the crowd.
Another statue of Columbus was beheaded in Boston overnight in the park named after him, according to CBS Boston.
Memorials to Columbus have long been targeted, as critics say his trip to the continental U.S. jump-started the transatlantic slave trade and led to European colonization of native peoples.
Several states have chosen to rename the federal holiday honoring Columbus into a celebration called Indigenous Peoples Day.
Floyd’s death reinvigorated an international push to remove historical monuments or statues honoring figures linked to oppression and racism.
Confederate monuments honoring figures like Robert E. Lee have been targeted by protesters in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Demonstrators in Belgian set fire to a statute of King Leopold II, whose reign ran from 1865 and 1909 and who is known for his oppressive rule over what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was his personal property before becoming a Belgian colony. As many as 10 million Congolese people died under Leopold.
The city of Antwerp officially removed the statue on Tuesday.