In Philadelphia, local residents stood guard last weekend, protecting the Christopher Columbus statue located in South Philly amid ongoing protests in the city. “If they bring this down, where does it end?” one man shouted. “Next they’ll want to change the American flag.”
People gathered at the base of the statue after they had heard that protesters were coming to tear down the monument. Others said they were there to protest “hate crimes against Italians” and violence against police.
Marconi Plaza is an urban green named for the Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi, who won the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics as an inventor of the radio. It is a place where neighbors walk their dogs and bring their children to play. The marble statue of Columbus that gazes over the grounds was first erected on Belmont Avenue in Fairmount Park, presented to the city by Italian American citizens as part of Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exposition. Believed to be the work of artist Emanuele Caroni, it was moved to the plaza in 1982.
Scuffles broke out between residents protecting the statue at the plaza, forcing police to intervene. Officers moved in, set up barriers around the statue and formed a blue line between the two opposing groups. Deputy Police Commissioner Dennis Wilson said that the statue will not be removed. The police remained all night to ensure that the statue would not be vandalized.
In cities where there is a rich Italian culture and heritage, the latest acts of vandalism against Columbus monuments have been hard to fathom. In Philadelphia, this social disobedience has been meet with resistance, where local residents refuse to allow outsiders to disgrace a monument that is a source of pride in the community.
“We don’t want our neighborhood destroyed,” said one local resident. “This is not about black versus white. This is about good versus evil. We don’t promote violence. We promote peaceful protest. We don’t want to see what happened in other neighborhoods happen here.”