A statue of Christopher Columbus in Virginia has been torn down by protesters, who then set it on fire and threw it into a lake, in the latest action against monuments in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The statue, in the city of Richmond, was toppled on Tuesday night less than two hours after protesters gathered in the city’s Byrd Park were chanting for it to be taken down, according to reports.
Protesters uses several ropes to remove the statue, with a a sign that reads “Columbus represents genocide” placed on the spray-painted foundation that once held the figure. It was then set on fire and rolled into a lake in the park, NBC 12 reported.
Elsewhere, another statue of Columbus in Boston’s Atlantic Avenue in Massachusetts was beheaded.
Columbus is venerated in several statues in the US for his exploration of the Americas but has also provoked more recent controversy over his role in killing, kidnapping and looting around the Caribbean islands and America in the 15th century.
Native American advocates have also long pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
In Richmond, Activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise and other protesters spoke to a crowd gathered at Byrd Park about the struggles of indigenous people and African Americans in America. “We have to start where it all began,” Higgs-Wise said during her speech. “We have to start with the people who stood first on this land.”
The Columbus statue was dedicated in Richmond in December 1927, and had been the first statue of Christopher Columbus erected in the south. Its toppling comes amid national protests over the death of George Floyd and several days after a statue of Confederate Gen Williams Carter Wickham was pulled from its pedestal in Monroe Park by demonstrators who also used ropes to tear it down.
Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, told the crowd she did not come “to hijack” the protests against police brutality, but to “stand in solidarity” with the people. Another speaker, Joseph Rogers, declared the area “Powhatan land,” and talked about how white supremacy and institutionalized racism has impacted both groups.
The toppling of the statue came as the US Navy announced its own symbolic change by not flying the Confederate battle flag anymore. The Navy joins the US Marines, which also said it will not be using the flag. Meanwhile, the leadership of the US Army has said it is open to renaming military bases that were named after Confederate generals.