‘Goddess’ Statue Must Be Moved, City Decides

Times Staff Writer

International events are one thing, but proper city procedures are quite another.

And so, the 23-foot replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” statue, which was erected without the proper permits on a pedestrian bridge in the Los Angeles Civic Center, must be removed from city property by the close of business Monday, officials said Friday.

Edward J. Avila, president of the city Board of Public Works, said a city attorney’s opinion issued earlier in the week pointed out that creators of the wood-and-plastic-foam structure had not obtained permits when they placed the statue on the Temple Street pedestrian bridge June 12 and that the statue had to come down.

‘Time to Restore Order’


“We made an exception because of its international significance,” Avila said, “but now, it’s time to restore order.”

Avila said city crews will remove the statue if Tom Van Sant, the Santa Monica artist who created it and led the group of art activists who installed it on the bridge, does not do so by the deadline. Without the proper permits, the statue cannot be moved to other city property.

That eliminates the possibility that the statue--which has come to symbolize the ideals of the pro-democracy Chinese students who protested in Beijing’s Tian An Men Square--could stand at City Hall, Avila said.

He said the board’s recent unanimous vote to move the statue to City Hall was misinterpreted by many, explaining that the board was merely suggesting, not ordering, that the replica be relocated there.


Artist Unsure What to Do

Contacted late Friday, Van Sant said he was not sure if he could meet the city-imposed deadline.

“I would hope this short deadline wouldn’t be enforced,” he said. “I don’t have the manpower to do it on short notice and I didn’t realize that is a holiday weekend.”

Van Sant said he is still negotiating with Chinatown groups to move the replica there.


“I think we can find a proper site for it, but this deadline is just too soon,” he said.

While Van Sant said he was appreciative of the city’s “accommodation of our unorthodox installation,” he said he was miffed that officials might have been pressured into taking action on the statue. He charged that the city ordered the removal because of a letter sent by a local group that believes the Tian An Men Square massacre on June 3 and 4 did not occur just as it believes that the Jewish Holocaust of World War II did not take place.

The group, Mission Trails, asked that it also be allowed to erect a statue to counter the Goddess of Democracy replica, Van Sant said.

“I’m uncomfortable about the pressure and its origin,” he said.


Avila said the letter had no impact on the city’s decision. “But that’s why we have rules, regulations and processes,” he said. “People are always wanting us to put up banners and other stuff.”

No representative of Mission Trails was available for comment.

Of particular concern to city officials is the statue’s deteriorating condition. In recent days, the replica, which has become something of a tourist attraction, has lost its back panel and other support panels.