The protesters and activists who tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the Minnesota Capitol Wednesday faced virtually no resistance from state leaders or law enforcement.
In fact, after the statue was toppled over, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said Minnesota “is long overdue for a hard look at the symbols, statues, and icons that were created without the input of many of our communities.”
“I can’t say I’m sad the statue of Christopher Columbus is gone. I’m not,” she said. “The arrival of Christopher Columbus to what is now the Americas set in motion centuries of violence and genocide against the Indigenous people who already lived here. As the highest-ranking Native woman elected to executive office in the country, I have often reflected on the fact that I could see a statue honoring that legacy from my office window.”
Flanagan said the Columbus statue was a “constant reminder that our systems were not built by or for Native people or people of color, but in many cases, to exclude, erase, and eliminate us.”
“Tonight, I’m thinking of all the Native children who might now feel more welcome on the grounds and in the halls of their state government,” she added.
All Minnesotans should feel welcome at the Minnesota State Capitol, and our state is long overdue for a hard look at the symbols, statues, and icons that were created without the input of many of our communities. pic.twitter.com/O7SP2jSAkm
— Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (@LtGovFlanagan) June 11, 2020
Mike Forcia, chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM), said in an interview recorded by Alpha News that he informed the governor’s office Wednesday morning of the group’s plan to tear down the statue.
“I reached out to the mayor’s office this morning. I reached out to the governor’s office and told them exactly what we were going to do because several people wanted to do it in the dark of night, come over here and pull him down. See, he was put up in broad daylight with 24,000 people here and they celebrated and it should be taken down the same way, in broad daylight and celebrated. And that’s exactly what happened,” said Forcia.
He said he expects to be arrested in the coming days and was told by the State Patrol that he would be charged with criminal vandalism.
According to various reports and video of the incident, about a dozen members of the State Patrol arrived at the scene only after the statue was already torn down. Prior to its removal, there was just one state trooper at the site who attempted to explain the legal process for removing a statue from the Capitol grounds.
Both Gov. Tim Walz and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said they were aware of the plans to tear down the statue at a Wednesday afternoon press conference – just 90 minutes before the statue came down.
“Yes, I am. I’ve heard that through social media. Col. Langer and his staff plan to be out there to meet with the groups, to explain to them the process that is already in existence for if you want to have a statue or if you want to have something removed from the Capitol grounds, there is a lawful process for doing that and we will be out there to meet with them to have that conversation,” said Harrington.
A Facebook page created by AIM of Twin Cities and Native Lives Matter warned that “today’s the day we remove this POS from the State Capitol.”
“The elders have spoken and we must act now,” said the event page. “Time to destroy the symbols of oppression. F that pacifist view. Time to warrior up.”
Gov. Walz claimed that the process for legally removing the statue “was too long” for the protesters, but said “that is not an excuse for them to take matters into their own hands and remove it in that fashion.”
“As a former social studies teacher, I taught my students that many Minnesotans look at that statue and see a legacy of genocide. Now more than ever, we must take a hard look at the dated symbols and injustices around us,” he said in a statement released Wednesday night, according to KSTP.
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said Gov. Walz “failed the state of Minnesota, again.”
“They knew there was a threat to the Christopher Columbus statue, and he failed to adequately protect public property. The mob mentality to do whatever people want without repercussion has got to stop. The governor didn’t protect the Third Precinct, he didn’t protect businesses on Lake Street, and the lieutenant governor condoned the destruction on public property,” Gazelka said in a statement.
Statues across the country are meeting similar fates, including a Columbus statue in Virginia that was set on fire and thrown in a lake, and another in Boston that was decapitated.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Christopher Columbus Statue Destroyed” by Tony Webster. CC BY-SA 2.0.