PHILADELPHIA - The Art Commission hosted a special meeting to discuss the future of the Christopher Columbus statue after Mayor Jimmy Kenney's request to remove the statue in Marconi Plaza. The public was able to weigh in Wednesday via Zoom.
Many in the Italian-American community see it as a symbol of pride for their heritage, while others see it as a monument to a controversial figure who represents genocide.
“His exploitation, torture, rape and ultimately genocide did not bring the bounty his supporters expected from his missions," Rue Landau, of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, explained.
“To say we’ve arrived and don’t need a statue. We haven’t arrived. We’re not going to have an Italian president in God knows how long,” one resident stated.
On Friday, the city’s Historical Commission is also expected to hear from the public. The Art Commission is expected to make a final decision in early August.
Kenney announced he would request the statue's removal back in late June, following clashes between opposing groups in the plaza.
"In recent weeks, clashes between those individuals who support the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated to a concerning public safety situation. It is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue," the mayor wrote.
The mayor added the city is committed to finding a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture, while respecting the histories and circumstances of others that come from different backgrounds.
The city has allowed for public input through written submissions, and the public will also have the opportunity to testify during the virtual Art Commission meeting.
The statue was boxed up by the city as officials and partners from the Philadelphia Art Commission decided its fate.
The base of a second monument honoring Christopher Columbus was being hidden from view while its future is debated.
The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation said the monument at Penn's Landing on the Delaware River marked the 500th anniversary of the explorer's first voyage, but the organization recognizes that it “is a focus of controversy and pain for many."
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