Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who welcomed the destruction of a Christopher Columbus statue, chairs the board responsible for Capitol artwork and monuments.
The Capitol Area Architectural and Planning (CAAP) Board, led by Flanagan, recently announced a “series of meetings focused on establishing a proactive, transparent, and public process to evaluate the monuments and artwork displayed on the Capitol Grounds.”
The goal of the meetings is to create “a process by which artwork displayed on the Capitol Grounds might be evaluated for potential alteration, re-interpretation, relocation, or removal.” The CAAP Board said Minnesota law doesn’t offer much clarity on formal processes for the “potential removal of monuments and artwork from the Capitol grounds.”
“We are in a moment when we need to have real conversations about the symbols and imagery that are in these public spaces and who makes those decisions,” Flanagan said in a press release. “It is our job to create a space for those conversations. As Chair of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, I am excited to engage in a proactive, transparent, and public process where Minnesotans can be heard.”
After vandals tore down a statue of Columbus outside the Capitol last month, Flanagan said she was “thinking of all the Native children who might now feel more welcome on the grounds and in the halls of their state government.”
“I can’t say I’m sad the statue of Christopher Columbus is gone. I’m not,” she said in a June 10 statement, the same day the statue was toppled.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said the investigation remains ongoing and has yet to make any arrests in the matter.
Two Republican senators asked the Minnesota Historical Society to repair and restore the Columbus statue in a letter sent last week. They argued that the CAAP Board does not need to grant the Historical Society permission to restore the statue, since its removal was never authorized in the first place. Under M.S. 138.68, the removal of a statue needs to receive approval from the Historical Society, they said.
“We are troubled to see that the Historical Society website entry for the statue seems to suggest that before the statue is replaced on its plinth, the CAAP Board must approve that step. We fail to see how that step is required where the Historical Society has not yet provided the approval required under law for the removal of the statue from the plinth,” said the letter.
The CAAP Board is currently seeking the public’s input on potential policy changes regarding the removal of monuments and artwork from the Capitol grounds.
“The events of the last few weeks have highlighted the importance of memorials in public memory and history,” said Kent Whitworth, CEO and director of the Minnesota Historical Society. “We know that statues and monuments symbolize and represent different ideas to different people and in the coming days, MNHS will be offering opportunities for learning and community conversation on this important topic.”
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