Philadelphia residents with suggestions on what should happen to the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza have until July 21 to weigh in.
On July 22, the city will take the public comments it collects to the Philadelphia Art Commission, which approves “the design and location of construction projects and public art on City property,” and ask for the statue’s removal. There will also be an opportunity for the public to offer testimony during the meeting.
“While it may seem counterintuitive … one aspect of managing a public art collection is the occasional removal of works from public view,” said Public Art Director Margot Berg.
Philadelphia residents have long protested the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza and another monument to him at Penn’s Landing. While a hero to some Italian Americans, the Genoese explorer has become a symbol of colonialism in the Americas to those who point to the mass displacement and genocide of Indigenous people that followed his arrival.
Still, the current calls to remove the Marconi statue seem to have gained traction after residents, some with bats and rifles, began to guard the statue against potential removal.
The pro-statue crowd and anti-racist protesters have clashed on more than one occasion.
Most recently, video of Philly resident John Mooney shows him punching a Black photographer in the face Tuesday night.
District Attorney Larry Krasner announced charges, including simple assault and harassment, against Mooney on Wednesday.
For his part, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city needed to find a way “forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture while respecting the histories and circumstances of others that come from different backgrounds.”
“In recent weeks, clashes between individuals who support the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated — creating a concerning public safety situation that cannot be allowed to continue,” wrote Kenney.
Part of reckoning with the legacy of systemic racism means reconsidering what figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces.
On July 22, the City will ask the Philadelphia Art Commission to approve the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue. https://t.co/pmX1CHrvqH
— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) June 24, 2020
In public comment forms, the city is asking people if there’s any private location, whether indoors or out, that could offer a suitable home for the Columbus statue.
The city also wants to hear suggestions about potential replacement public art that would “unite Philadelphians.”