A lawyer representing a group of Philadephia residents fighting to keep a statue of Christopher Columbus standing in a popular plaza in the city praised the judge in the case who ordered a stay after an overwhelming vote by the city’s art commission for its removal.
George Bochetto, the lawyer, told the Philadephia Inquirer that Judge Paula Patrick’s decision was “not just a victory for the Columbus Statue, [but] a victory for civilized society.” He said that she made it “crystal clear that she will not tolerate mob rule or kangaroo tactics.”
There have been fights over Columbus statues across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. Those opposed to the statue claim that the explorer should not be memorialized due to his treatment of the indigenous people.
In the early weeks of protests in the U.S., the attention seemed to shift from statues of Confederate generals to statues of any historic figure without an unblemished record. There have even been calls to remove tributes to Abraham Lincoln.
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This statue, in particular, was a gift from the Italian government back in the 1800s, Alan Greenberger, the chairman of the city’s art commission, told the paper. He called the statue a “serious piece of art” and said, “the worst thing, in my view, that can happen, as many of you said, is that it stays in storage and is forgotten.”
The paper pointed out that the Philadelphia Art Commission voted 8-0 on Wednesday to remove the statue from Marconi Plaza and place it in storage. WHYY.org reported that there was a violent confrontation at the site of the statue in June and its placement in storage is “in the interest of public safety.”
The paper reported that the statue will not be removed until some other legal issues are dealt with pertaining to the case.
Lauren Cox, a spokeswoman from the city’s mayor’s office, told WHYY that the legal challenge from Bochetto will not slow plans to remove the statue. She said the city is “still in the process of ensuring the conditions set forth by the Historical and Art Commissions were met.”