As recently as October, Supervisor Aaron Peskin was vowing to prosecute the vandals who tossed red paint all over the statue of Christopher Columbus near Coit Tower. But now the SF Arts Commission has seen the tide turning on Columbus's legacy once and for all, and the statue has come down.
"Destroy all monuments of genocide and kill all colonizers," read the painted words of the protester vandals next to the statue last Indigenous People's Day. Just last week, the statue's face and hands were painted blood red once again, and this time, after weeks of national unrest about racial inequality, the city decided to listen.
The statue was removed by a city crew early Thursday morning, as KPIX reports. And city officials have not yet issued a statement on the matter.
BREAKING: Christopher Columbus statue at San Francisco's Coit Tower taken down early this morning.— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) June 18, 2020
This is ahead of a planned protest that planned to throw it into the bay. pic.twitter.com/Fr2xXBjeO1
#BREAKING According to an SF Supervisor - statue of #ChristopherColumbus has been removed near Coit Tower & placed in storage. Super. says city recognizes the pain & oppression caused by Columbus. Art, Park and Rec Commissions will work w/public to decide replacement @nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/Gvm1M0hRpM— Cierra Johnson (@CierraJohnsonTV) June 18, 2020
One pertinent detail provided by KQED's Sarah Hotchkiss on Twitter: The statue was "made by Vittorio di Colbertaldo, once a volunteer member of Benito Mussolini's special bodyguard corps."
NBC Bay Area's Cierra Johnson reports on Twitter that an unnamed supervisor (likely Peskin) says that the "city recognizes the pain & oppression caused by Columbus." Now the Arts Commission will work with the public to decide on a replacement statue.
The statue's removal follows a similar removal of a Columbus statue from the Capitol Building rotunda in Sacramento, which was decided upon earlier this week. In a statement, state legislators said, "Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations. The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today."
Native Americans and activists alike have been protesting the presence of Columbus effigies across the country for decades — and the movement to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day dates back to the late 1980s. The city of Berkeley celebrated its first Indigenous Peoples' Day back in 1992.
California considered a bill to officially change the name of the holiday in 2013, but it did not pass. Currently, thirteen states ignore the holiday altogether, and South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day instead.
Previously, the SF Arts Commission bowed to public pressure in 2017 and removed a statue near City Hall depicting "a Spanish vaquero and a missionary standing over a prone Native American figure."
So, will Columbus Avenue be next? You can be sure the Italian-American community that remains in North Beach — which continues to celebrate the Columbus Day weekend with an Italian Heritage Parade — will push back on this.