Court orders box removed from Columbus statue in South Philadelphia; city appealing decision

Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus

Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia in June 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

A court has ordered the plywood box that was placed around the statue of Christopher Columbus last year in South Philadelphia be removed, but the city says it is appealing that decision.

In the order issued Friday morning, Judge Paula Patrick of the Court of Common Pleas said the box around the statue in Marconi Plaza should be removed right away.

She also ordered that, in the “interest of safety and preservation upon removal of the plywood structure,” the appellants are permitted to put a clear structure around the statue.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

A spokesperson for the mayor said the city is immediately appealing the ruling.

“We cannot, and have no intention to, remove the box at this time,” said Acting Communications Director Kevin Lessard. “We continue to believe it is in the best interest and public safety of all Philadelphians that the statue remains secured in its box.”

Back in August, Judge Patrick ruled the Columbus statue can stay in Marconi Plaza. That ruling overturned decisions by the City of Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review and later the Philadelphia Historical Commission to remove the statute.

The city is also appealing that decision.

The statue became a flashpoint in June 2020.

Some in the city said the Columbus statue is a symbol of hate and oppression, while others claimed the statue is an important part of Italian-American heritage and should be left alone.

Judge Paula Patrick wrote in August that the city’s primary justification for the removal was the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

But in doing so, she wrote it was inconsistent with code, never showed to the court ongoing civil unrest beyond last June, and failed to allow for 90 days of public input.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get the WHYY app!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal