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Columbus Statue Wrapped In Plastic; Mayor Recommends Removal

The Christopher Columbus statue near Schenley Park, in June 2020, after being spray-painted with graffiti.

City crews covered a statue of Christopher Columbus in Pittsburgh in advance of Columbus Day following a recommendation from the mayor that it be removed from a city park and placed in a private location yet to be determined.

Mayor Bill Peduto said Friday that he agreed with the recommendation of a city art commission last month that the statue in Schenley Park should be removed. Peduto said the work “can be better displayed in a private location that places Columbus, his memory and his history in different context."

Peduto said he was “tremendously proud" to be of Italian heritage, but believed it was time to return the statue to the Italian-American community to preserve it, “in a manner than celebrates Italian-American culture, while acknowledging the wreckage that slavery and racism has done to America.”

Peduto called on the art commission to make a final vote on the disposition of the statue and said it could be covered until it is removed.

The Pittsburgh-based Italian Sons and Daughters of America are seeking a temporary injunction to stop the western Pennsylvanian city from removing the statue.

Earlier this year, an arts panel in Philadelphia cleared the way for that city to remove a 144-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus from a south Philadelphia park. City crews built a wooden box around the statue following clashes between protesters and residents.

Statues of Columbus were earlier removed in nearby Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, after the explorer became a focus of protesters amid nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

In Richmond, Virginia, a statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down, set on fire and thrown into a lake. In Columbia, South Carolina, the first U.S. city named for Columbus, a statue of the explorer was removed after it was vandalized several times, and a vandalized statue in Boston also was removed from its pedestal.

Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes even as he pleaded for air and stopped moving.