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Officials with the San Francisco Arts Commission have removed a statue of historical figure Christopher Columbus from Coit Tower, under direction from Mayor London Breed.
Arts commission officials said the statue was removed Thursday from its Telegraph Hill Boulevard location because it no longer aligns with the city’s commitment to racial justice and also for the sake of public safety.
A Black Lives Matter protest that had been organized for last Friday called for protesters to remove the statue themselves and throw it in the Bay.
“Columbus also represents the painful foundation of American history — the slavery, subjugation and conquest we must all condemn. To those who see Columbus in this light, the statue has represented a fictional, sanitized version of our history, celebrating the man while ignoring the generations of trauma his actions have caused.”Supervisor Catherine Stefani
The statue, which weighs 2 tons, would have presented a safety risk if it fell, according to officials.
“At this important time in our country, we are all examining the ways in which institutional and structural racism permeate our society. Public art is no exception. In cities across the U.S., many historic monuments are being taken down because the actions and ideas symbolized do not deserve to be venerated. Representation matters. That’s why we can, and should, continue to create artwork that reflects our values, and the diverse communities we serve,” arts commission officials said in a statement.
For now, the statue has been placed in storage.
“We look forward to engaging the community in a meaningful conversation around next steps for the statue, and for the site,” officials said.
Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who is of Italian descent, said while Columbus has been a symbol of pride for many Italian Americans, she supported the statue’s removal.
“Columbus also represents the painful foundation of American history — the slavery, subjugation and conquest we must all condemn. To those who see Columbus in this light, the statue has represented a fictional, sanitized version of our history, celebrating the man while ignoring the generations of trauma his actions have caused,” she said.
Last year on Indigenous People’s Day, formerly known as Columbus Day, police reported the statue had been vandalized, covered in red paint with the phrases “Kill all colonizers” and “Destroy all monuments of genocide” written underneath.
Back in 2018, the city removed the Early Days statue from Civic Center Plaza after residents called for its removal, citing its offensive depiction of Native Americans.