A statue of Christopher Columbus in San Francisco was defaced with red paint and graffiti over the weekend, just ahead of Monday’s federal holiday celebrating the controversial 15th century explorer.
Officials say someone poured red paint over the sculpture, drew anarchy symbols and scrawled messages on the statute’s concrete base that read, “Destroy all monuments of genocide” and “Kill all colonizers.” The vandalism was discovered early Sunday. The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the incident.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes North Beach, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the situation was “a hateful, despicable piece of divisive vandalism.”
City workers cleaned the statute, located on Telegraph Hill in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, on Sunday as thousands celebrated Italian culture at the Italian Heritage Parade nearby. The city no longer celebrates Columbus Day, instead opting to commemorate the holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day.
A Columbus statue also was vandalized in Providence, R.I., on Monday. That statue was splashed with red paint and a sign that read “Stop celebrating genocide” was leaned against its base.
The incidents mark the latest backlash against a symbolic figure who many contend endorses genocide and white supremacy.
In step with San Francisco, several other U.S. cities — including Los Angeles — have voted in recent years to eliminate Columbus Day from their calendars and replace it with a day honoring indigenous people.
The condemnation of the explorer, who was born in Genoa, Italy, has drawn opposition from Italian American groups, which often see Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian heritage as much as a day commemorating his arrival in the Caribbean.
Last year, Los Angeles held its first Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at Grand Park. A statue of the explorer, which formerly was in the park in downtown Los Angeles, was hidden behind a black box for the celebration and was subsequently removed.
Associated Press contributed to this report.