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Protesters in Richmond, Va., topple Columbus statue, throw it in lake

In San Francisco, a statue of Christopher Columbus stands beneath Coit Tower.
In San Francisco, a statue of Christopher Columbus stands beneath Coit Tower. In various cities, statues of Columbus and Confederate generals have been targeted.
(Associated Press)

A statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond, Va., was torn down by protesters, set on fire and then thrown into a lake.

The figure was toppled less than two hours after protesters who gathered in the city’s Byrd Park were chanting for the statue to be taken down, news outlets reported.

After the figure was removed from its pedestal at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by protesters using several ropes, a sign that said “Columbus Represents Genocide” was placed on the statue’s foundation. The statue was then set on fire and rolled into a lake in the park, NBC 12 reported.

There was no police presence in the park, but a police helicopter was seen circling the area after the city-owned figure was torn down, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

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Earlier in the day, activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise and other protesters spoke to a crowd gathered at Byrd Park about the struggles of indigenous people and African Americans in the U.S. “We have to start where it all began,” Higgs-Wise said. “We have to start with the people who stood first on this land.”

The Columbus statue was dedicated in Richmond in December 1927 and was the first figure of Christopher Columbus erected in the South, the newspaper reported. Its toppling comes amid national protests over the killing of George Floyd and several days after a statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham was pulled from its pedestal in Monroe Park by demonstrators, who also used ropes in tearing down the Wickham statue.

And Richmond was not the only place where a statue of Columbus has been targeted.

In Boston, a statue of Columbus was beheaded. The statue is in a waterfront park near the city’s traditionally Italian North End neighborhood. The head of the statue was found on the ground early Wednesday morning, according to news reports.

Police were investigating, and there was no word on any arrests. The Boston statue has been vandalized in the past.

A judge in Richmond has issued an injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Virginia’s governor has pledged to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, but a judge has temporarily halted the order.

Native American advocates have long pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

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Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, told the crowd she did not come “to hijack” the protests against police brutality but to “stand in solidarity” with the people. Another speaker, Joseph Rogers, declared the area “Powhatan land” and talked about how white supremacy and institutionalized racism had affected both groups.


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