A statue erected in Denver’s Civic Center in the mid-1970s to honor Christopher Columbus was torn down by protesters overnight, just a day after the state’s Civil War monument — which included a commemoration of the Sand Creek Massacre — met a similar fate.
Video tweeted around 12:40 a.m. Friday by a group called the Afro Liberation Front shows a number of people pulling on ropes attached to the 15-foot bronze statue, which sat on a pedestal bearing a plaque with the inscription “In Honor of Christopher Columbus.”
The statue was found on its side on the sidewalk Friday morning, Denver7 reported.
The plaque on the statue’s base says the sculpture was created by William F. Joseph and gifted to the city of Denver by Alfred P. and Anne E. Adamo on June 24, 1970. The statue, “reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man,” was installed atop a concrete pedestal south of the park’s memorial gateway in 1975, according to the document filed to nominate Denver’s Civic Center as a National Historic Landmark.
The removal of both the statue honoring Columbus and the sculpture of a Union soldier atop the Civil War monument at the state Capitol come amid a national movement to tear down memorials honoring the perpetrators of racist acts — part of the growing push for racial justice and police reform sparked by the death last month of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The Columbus memorial has drawn criticism for years, and, more recently, increased scrutiny from a Denver City Council member and local activists — including Denver school board member Tay Anderson, who initially called on Mayor Michael Hancock to remove the statue before learning of the Vitruvian Man connection.
“I’m hoping that, one, we are able to take the plaque down,” Anderson told The Denver Post this week. “And two, we can be able to decide as a community: Is this the statue we want in Civic Center, and what can we replace it with?”
The city already had announced the creation of a commission to “evaluate Denver landmarks and public spaces, including public art, associated with racist groups or ideologies,” according to a news release. The Columbus memorial was slated to be discussed at a July 7 meeting with the American Indian Commission and the Italian Consulate, the city said.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Denver police said, a group of four people pulled down the soldier atop the state’s Civil War monument on the west side of the Capitol.
That statue, erected in 1909, commemorates battles fought by Colorado soldiers and memorializes those who died. The last of the 22 battles listed on the statue’s base is Sand Creek — which was not a battle at all, but a massacre of more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, mostly women and children, by Col. John Chivington and his Colorado Volunteers.
Without acknowledging the memorial’s ties to the Sand Creek Massacre, Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday decried the removal of the statue, saying in a statement, “We will use every tool at our disposal to work with Denver police and to hold accountable those responsible for the damage whether they are hooligans, white supremacists, confederate sympathizers or drunk teenagers.”
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