The statue, which has stood on the community college’s campus in downtown Columbus, Ohio, since 1988, was disassembled on June 19. It took several hours for workers to saw the statue in half, lift the sections with a crane, and finally place them on a flatbed truck.
In a message to the campus community, Columbus State Board of Trustees chair Anthony Joseph said this was not an attempt to erase history, but “the first of many steps” as the school seeks to build on and improve its efforts toward “broadened diversity and inclusion.”
“Our students, community, faculty, and staff have consistently and patiently asked for the removal of the statue. We are listening,” said Columbus State president David Harrison, noting that students had “reinforced the conclusion” that the statue of the 15th century explorer is “not consistent with the values and mission” of the school.
The removal comes as the mayor of Columbus announced the city is planning to replace the Christopher Columbus statue in front of City Hall with an artwork that demonstrates “the fight to end racism” and celebrates “diversity and inclusion.”
Meanwhile, an Italian-American heritage group named Columbus Piave Club found itself at odds with the Columbus City Council, arguing that the Italian-American community shouldn’t be ousted from the discussion over the fate of the statue, which was commissioned by Italian immigrants as a symbol of their contributions to their new country.
“From an administration that preaches inclusion and diversity, we as a community find this extremely ironic,” the club said in a statement.
Amid the nationwide unrest, activists in colleges and universities are targeting historical monuments that have ties to what they see as racial injustice. Earlier this month, protesters vandalized the statue of Confederate commander Williams Carter Wickham on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond, before pulling it down with ropes.
Last week, the University of Mississippi Board of Trustees voted to relocate a Confederate soldier monument from the university campus to a Civil War cemetery, which is less frequently visited. The statue was vandalized during a protest with the words “spiritual genocide” in black spray paint and red handprints on each side of it.