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Columbus statue pulled from Richmond lake, police continue to investigate

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 18:11:40-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- No arrests have been made after the Christopher Columbus statue was ripped off its pedestal in Richmond’s Byrd Park and dumped into Fountain Lake.

Work crews removed the 93-year-old statue from the lake Wednesday morning, about 10 hours after it was thrown into the water Tuesday night.

The act occurred following a protest in support of indigenous people. At some point in the evening, a group of people removed the Columbus statue from its pedestal and dragged it to the lake.

"The atrocities inflicted upon indigenous people by Christopher Columbus are unconscionable. That’s why the city began observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, not Columbus Day, in 2019. But the decision and action to remove a monument should be made in collaboration with the community," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon. "Working with Richmond’s History and Culture Commission, we are establishing a process by which Richmonders can advocate for change to the figures we place on public pedestals across our city in a legal and peaceful way."

Some at the park Wednesday morning supported the group's act.

“I think it sends a really good message that these people, Columbus and the Confederate monuments Monument Avenue… these memorials to these objectively bad people have been up for way too long and it’s past time to take them down,” Melissa Hudson said.

Throughout the day, some people parked their car where the statue once stood and took pictures.

Two members of the Italian-American Cultural Association, who asked not to be identified by name, were dismayed by what took place.

“The statue was more than just Christopher Columbus,” one of the members said. “That’s the fabric of the grounds here. It just represents the Italian culture.”

The two members said they have spent the last seven years taking care of the statue.

“We had intentions of putting the Italian flag up to let the City of Richmond and outskirts know that it’s more than just Christopher Columbus,” the other member said. “This is a place that the Italian community had. A place for this community, for their being.”

Within minutes, the Italian flag was torn off the pedestal.

"I understand people are angry. They’re angry at Christopher Columbus because many have a view that he was violent," the members explained. "We understand discrimination, but, certainly not to the extent the African Americans had discrimination and violence against them. What we don’t understand is, why did this have to come to this?"

Terrance Jones, who has lived in Richmond his entire life, said he was baffled by what was allowed to happen.

“It just amazes me that someone was even allowed the opportunity to saw the statue off its base, walk it all the way down here, and throw it in the lake without being arrested,” Jones said.

Officials with Richmond Police said that by the time officers arrived, the area was clear.

"We know of what happened because we received a video of the incident," police said.

Richmond Police have asked anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.

City spokesman Jim Nolan said the statue is owned and maintained by Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities.

The damaged statue has been moved to an undisclosed location and its future is to be determined, he said.