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‘Disappointed’ Philadelphia mayor orders removal of box covering Columbus statue


The mayor of Philadelphia said he was “disappointed” that a court ordered the city to remove a plywood box covering a statue of Christopher Columbus.

A spokesman for Jim Kenney said the office believes the statue should be removed from Marconi Plaza, noting it “has been a source of controversy” in the city. It is covered with a large box that a member of the district city council asked to paint green, white and red to reflect the Italian flag.

“We continue to review the latest court decision and are working to comply with the court’s orders, including unpacking,” the mayor’s office said in a statement Saturday.

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt issued her ruling on Friday, telling the city that if it disagrees with the statue’s “message”, it can add a plaque “more in line with the message the city wishes to convey.” , the court documents say.

A pedestrian walks past an enclosed statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza in Philadelphia on October 11, 2021.Matt Rourke/AP File

“Specifically, the city accepted the donation of the statue of Christopher Columbus in 1876. It has a fiduciary duty to preserve this statue, which it designated as a historic object in 2017,” the judge wrote. “The Columbus statue is not City property, as is, for example, a City snowblower. That the City agrees with the ‘message’ is simply irrelevant to its fiduciary duty to preserve and maintain public works of art which have been designated as historic objects.”

The mayor’s office said that while respecting Leavitt’s decision, it “will continue to explore our options for a path forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture while respecting the histories and circumstances of different walks of life. each”.

The statue was presented to the city by the Italian-American community to mark the nation’s centennial. He was at the center of a dispute between the city and the Friends of Marconi Plaza group, with supporters saying they saw Columbus as a symbol of Italian heritage in Philadelphia.

In a 2020 letter, the mayor said that while Columbus supporters revered him as an explorer, he had a “far more infamous” history of enslaving Indigenous peoples and imposing punishments such as severed limbs or murders.

“Certainly the totality of this history must be considered when erecting or maintaining a monument to this individual,” the mayor wrote in the letter, according to court documents.

That same year, protests against racial injustice erupted across the country. In Philadelphia, some of the protests have focused on the removal of the statue. But last year, a judge said the city had failed to provide evidence that the character’s removal was necessary.

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