Judge: It's Time to Take Statue Out of the Box

Controversial Columbus statue has been hidden behind plywood since June 2020
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2021 12:45 PM CDT
Judge: Take Columbus Statue Out of the Box
This Wednesday, June 17, 2020 photo shows Philadelphia police at Marconi Plaza near the Columbus statue in Philadelphia. The statue has been boxed up until the city decides its fate.   (Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The Philadelphia city government is fine with leaving Christopher Columbus right where he is, which is in a box in Marconi Plaza. A judge issued an order Friday that the box around the controversial statue be removed. Judge Paula Patrick said that a clear structure should be put around the statue instead to preserve it, 6ABC reports. But the mayor’s office doesn’t want to do it, and there is no plan to remove the box, a spokesperson said.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration wants the statue gone altogether, and has been seeking to have it removed from its South Philadelphia perch since June 2020, NBC10 reports. A group of people, some armed, gathered at the statue last year after rumors spread that the city was going to remove it. The group sought to protect the statue. Last September the Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review decided to let the removal to go forward, but Patrick overturned that decision.

At the heart of the controversy, which erupted in the wake of protests in summer 2020, is Columbus’ treatment of Indigenous people in the Americas. But some Italian-Americans in Philadelphia see the removal of the statue as tantamount to erasure of their cultural heritage. George Bochetto, a lawyer for Friends of Marconi Plaza, said he was delighted by the judge’s ruling. “It comes on the eve on our most important day in the Italian American culture, which is to celebrate Columbus Day,” he told 3CBS. Philadelphia Arts Commissioner Robert Roesch, a sculptor, doesn’t see the issue that way at all. “When I see a work of art being spray painted and people standing around it with guns and bats, I find that very upsetting, and that’s not the purpose of public art,” he said. (Read more Indigenous People's Day stories.)

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