Pelosi on Baltimore’s Columbus statue: ‘If the community doesn’t want the statue, the statue shouldn’t be there’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said “people will do what they do” in response to a question about the toppling of a statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, adding that if a community doesn’t want a statue, “the statue shouldn’t be there.”
At her press conference, Pelosi, who is from Baltimore, said she was “not one of those people who is wedded to a, ‘Oh, a statue of somebody someplace is an important thing.’”
“I don’t – again, if the community doesn’t want the statue, the statue shouldn’t be there,” she added.
Pelosi said the Columbus statue being toppled did not “diminish my pride in my Italian American heritage and the fact that it was a country discovered by an Italian and named for an Italian, Amerigo Vespucci. So I have that pride, but I don’t care that much about statues.”
The Columbus statue was taken off its podium and thrown into the Inner Harbor by protesters on Saturday. The statue had stood near Baltimore’s “Little Italy” neighborhood and was put in place in 1984.
The Italian explorer’s legacy increasingly has come under criticism from those who say he exploited native people.
The protests on Saturday, like others around the country, were calling for a reduction in funding to police, among other issues. Calls to defund the police and to attack institutional racism have grown since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who pleaded for help as an officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.
Asked if a statue should be taken down by a commission or a city council and “not by a mob in the middle of the night,” Pelosi said “people will do what they do.”
“It’s a – I do think that, from a safety standpoint, it would be a good idea to have it taken down if the community doesn’t want it. I don’t know that it has to be a commission, but it just could be a community view,” she said.
Officials in Maryland have criticized the destruction of the Columbus statue.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Twitter wrote that while peaceful protests and a “constructive dialogue” on moving monuments was welcome, “lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of public property is completely unacceptable.”
The statue of Columbus in Baltimore is just one of the monuments that have been torn down in the last few weeks. While most of those statues taken down, by force or by government action, have been of Confederate leaders, there have also been cases of figures from the Revolutionary War being targeted.
Critics of such statues have noted that historic figures such as President Jefferson owned slaves.
Pelosi has pushed to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.
On Thursday, she said she thought that it was “very important that we take down any of the statues of people who committed treason against the United States of America as those statues exist in the Congress, in the halls of Congress, in the Rotunda – not the Rotunda, I don’t think, but in the Statuary Hall, and the rest, where many – some of them are.”
Authorities did not attempt to stop the statue from being torn down in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood on Saturday, according to The Baltimore Sun.
On Monday morning, divers with Specialty Underwater Services lifted pieces of the statue from the harbor, a move organized by members of the Italian American community in the city.
This story was updated at 8:22 p.m. An initial version of the story lacked the full context of Pelosi’s remarks.