Woman arrested in vandalism of Christopher Columbus statue at San Jose City Hall

A 25-year-old woman was arrested Friday on suspicion of smearing paint across a statue of Christopher Columbus in San Jose’s City Hall. It was the latest backlash against a symbol that many have criticized as an endorsement of genocide and white supremacy.

Gina Darlene Gonzales of San Jose is accused of entering City Hall around 2 p.m. Thursday and using her hands to smear paint across the statue, according to Sgt. Enrique Garcia, a city police spokesman.

Gonzales was detained Friday near the Martin Luther King Library after a security guard who had been working at City Hall recognized her, Garcia said. Police were sent to the scene and identified her from surveillance footage of the vandalism.

The woman was issued a citation for vandalism and released. The department will not make the surveillance footage public because it is evidence linked to the vandalism investigation, Garcia said.

San Jose city officials agreed last week that the statue should be moved out of City Hall, but have not formalized a relocation plan yet, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The incident comes amid a wider debate about monuments honoring Columbus or Civil War figures like Robert E. Lee, which have led to protests and violence in several cities in the U.S.

A large number of activists contend symbols honoring Columbus effectively endorse the genocide of Native Americans. Several statues of Columbus were also vandalized, and in once case last month in New York City, decapitated.

The rallying cries against Columbus have drawn opposition from Italian American groups, which often see Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian heritage as much, if not more, than a day commemorating his arrival in the Caribbean.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to eliminate Columbus Day from the city’s calendar and replace it with a day honoring indigenous people. Several U.S. cities — including Seattle, Albuquerque and Denver — have approved similar measures.

james.queally@latimes.com

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