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Native Americans pull down Christopher Columbus statue at Minnesota Capitol

By Brad Sigal |
June 11, 2020
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Columbus statue pulled down at Minnesota Capitol.
Columbus statue pulled down at Minnesota Capitol. (Photo by Brad Sigal)

Saint Paul, MN - On June 10, Native Lives Matter, AIM of Twin Cities and AIM Patrol of Minneapolis led a protest that pulled down the 10-foot tall statue of Christopher Columbus that had stood in front of the Minnesota State Capitol since 1931. A couple hundred people cheered as protesters put a rope around Columbus’s neck and dozens pulled until the statue came crashing down face-first.

Generations of children in the U.S. have been taught that Christopher Columbus was a hero that ‘discovered America’. But for generations, Native Americans have made clear that Columbus represents the start of a genocidal European conquest of their lands and peoples. For millions of people, Columbus is a key symbol of the white supremacy at the heart of the U.S. political and economic system.

In the wake of the mass protests and uprisings calling for justice for George Floyd, racist statues and symbols like the Confederate flag are being taken down around the country. Native American leaders in Minnesota had petitioned for the Columbus statue to be removed for years, making no progress through the system. With mass anti-racist sentiment at a high point, Native American community leaders reached a breaking point and decided to take action.

State Patrol officers clustered to the side as protesters took down the statue, not intervening to try to stop them. After the statue came down, protesters danced around the statue and rallied for about an hour. Many people spit on the downed statue. An American Indian Movement flag was draped over Columbus’s fallen body. Then State Patrol officers moved in to push protesters back as they surrounded the fallen statue until it could be lifted by a large crane and taken away on a flat-bed tow truck. Protesters appealed to the officers to let them take the statue, but the police wouldn’t move.

It’s unclear where the statue was taken and whether they will attempt to put it back up in the same spot, in a different spot, or whether it will be retired. But a statement from Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, who is Native American, expressing relief that the statue is no longer there gave a possible signal that it won’t be put back up in front of the capitol.

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