As protests continue across the country in response to the police killing of George Floyd, a number of controversial statues are beginning to fall. On Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, several statues of Christopher Columbus, the explorer and colonizer who has been the center of controversy in recent decades, were toppled, including one in Virginia that was tossed into a lake and another in Boston that was beheaded. Among the first Europeans to come to the Americas, Columbus is credited with helping start European colonization and likewise the oppression of indigenous people.
According to Forbes, a statue of Columbus in Boston’s Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park was targeted during the early morning hours of Wednesday. The statue was reportedly beheaded, with images showing the head lying on the ground next to the monument. The statue had previously been a target in 2015 when "Black Lives Matter" was spray-painted across the base. Police are currently investigating the overnight incident.
Just hours earlier, a similar scene played out at Virginia's Byrd Park, where protesters used a rope to pull down the city's monument to Christopher Columbus before pulling it approximately 200 yards and submerging it in Fountain Lake, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It had also been set on fire. Earlier in the day, protesters had gathered near the paint-spattered statue, with activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise telling the crowd, "We have to start where it all began — we have to start with the people who stood first on this land." After several more speakers, the crowd, some of whom carried signs reading, "This land is Powhatan land" and "Columbus represents genocide," began to chant, "take it down." Tamara Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the parks and recreation department, confirmed that the statue had since been removed from the lake and taken to an undisclosed location. No arrests were made in connection to the incident.
That Tuesday toppling of the statue came just a day after a Virginia judge's ruling to temporarily block the removal of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's Monument Avenue. In recent days, there have been wide-scale pushes to remove statues and monuments commemorating controversial figures of America’s past, with protesters taking measures into their own hands in some instances.
Just as the protests have, the push to remove such statues has gone global. In Bristol, England, protesters toppled a statue laver Edward Colston and tossed it into water. Meanwhile, a statue of King Leopold II, who reportedly oversaw mass killings of Congolese people in the late 19th and early 20th century, was removed by the government from Antwerp Square in Belgium after it was targeted by protesters.