It is time to speak up. Protesters in cities around the United States have been tearing down, defacing and otherwise vandalizing statues of Christopher Columbus as an offshoot of the protests over the death of George Floyd, of which has nothing to do with Columbus. In St. Paul, Minnesota, news crews recorded protesters as a rope was tied around the statue of the Great Navigator and pulled from its base at the steps of the State Capitol. A group of demonstrators had promised earlier in the day to tear down the statue. As the statue lay on the ground, protesters danced and spit on it. Video shows one man posing for news cameras with his foot on the back of the statue’s head.
In downtown Miami, Florida, a Columbus statue had its head and face painted red. There was also graffiti along the base that included “George Floyd,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) and depictions of a hammer and sickle.
On Tuesday, June 9, in Richmond, Virginia, a judge issued a temporary injunction against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, so in an act of violence, protesters pulled down a statue of Columbus, lit it on fire and then dragged it into Fountain Lake. During that incident, which followed a protest for indigenous people, the statue’s base was also spray painted, while a cardboard sign reading “Columbus represents genocide” was left in the statue’s place.
The statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston’s North End was found decapitated on Thursday, June 11 and now may be permanently removed. The 6-foot Carrara marble statue was beheaded sometime about 12:30 am. Boston’s Mayor Martin J. Walsh said that the statue would be placed in storage and its future reassessed. The Mayor commented, “We don’t condone vandalism and it needs to stop, but given the conversations that we’re having right now in our city and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue.”
It is time to speak up. The numerous acts of vandalism are yet another example of angry and misguided individuals trying to rule with a mob mentality. Their intent is to try to erase history, yet their own perception of history is distorted. If the actions were not so dangerous and the inaction of local leadership so ineffectual, it would otherwise be pathetic. Instead, it rises to a level of hatred that targets statues which are a symbol of Italian American pride and condemns a great historic figure who is conveniently vilified by those with their own 21st century agenda.
The social activists today completely fail to understand that Columbus is a symbol for all Italian Americans, whose great migration to the United States began in the late 19th century. As individuals and as a group, Italian Americans fought an extremely long and hard battle for racial equality and social acknowledgment. We were a minority who wanted to win acceptance and did so through hard work and sacrifice. Acceptance was won by integrating into the society, not by attempting to tear it down. Destruction is not a constitutional right. It is time to speak up.
Why have the mayors and governors, Italian American or not, failed to step up and condemn these atrocities? Why have so few Italian American organizations failed to rally and denounce these acts of domestic terrorism? Civil violence and unrest has swept through cities across this great country and has been allowed to hide behind legitimate peaceful protests. It is time to speak up.
With crime escalating across the nation, protesters have once again focused on Columbus with crimes and acts of vandalism. Newspapers and news services have reported the events, but there is no outrage. The bias of many of the outlets describe the incidents with a casual detachment, yet it is nothing less than a hate crime and one that has been levied against all Italian Americans. It is an attack on our Italian American culture. It was our grandparents and parents who donated their hard-earned pennies to erect many of the statues of Columbus. Where is the respect for our heritage? Where is the justice for our culture? Every Italian American organization and club should be up in arms over these latest disgraceful incidents.
As you read this, there are undoubtedly many readers who will become incensed. Do not remain silent. Contact your local and state officials, your representative in Congress and let them know that all manner of racism and hate crimes are intolerable. There is no justification for these wanton acts of prejudice. Do not allow the statues of Columbus to be removed. Do not allow the agendas of a few to recast history. Italian Americans are part of the social fabric of this country, but all too often we remain silent and let slights, intentional or otherwise, roll off our backs. That may have been necessary a century ago, but that is not the case today. You have a voice, it is time to use it. It is time to speak up!