Ahead of planned protests in Larkspur this week, the city manager ordered the removal of a controversial statue of explorer and slave trader Sir Francis Drake from an area near the ferry terminal.
A public hearing on the statue was held at the Larkspur City Council on June 29, after which the council directed the city manager to research the removal process, as NBC Bay Area reports. The statue's removal took place "in the predawn darkness" on Wednesday, as KPIX reports.
"The removal is in response to planned demonstrations to tear down or demolish the statue this Thursday in a way that is potentially unsafe,” the Central Marin Police Department said in a release. “Removing the statue is intended to promote public safety while preserving the statue so that dialogue about its future can continue."
The site in Larkspur where a 30ft tall sculpture of a Sir Francis Drake once stood. The city made the call to temporarily remove it overnight ahead of a planned protest Thursday. The story today on @KCBSRadio. pic.twitter.com/wD0o3ia4Zp— Mike DeWald (@mike_dewald) July 29, 2020
A petition circulated last month calling for the statue's removal, and it garnered over 1,100 signatures — and the petition simultaneously called for defunding the Central Marin Police Authority, citing "a history of violence towards people of color."
In mid-June, a vandal was seen apparently trying to saw at the metal statue's base with a power tool. The man succeeded in damaging the base of the figure's flag. Also, on June 17, a Black Lives Matter protest focused on the statue removal itself, and drew a significant crowd.
A #BLM protest at a statue on Sir Francis Drake Blvd in Larkspur has turned into a confrontation with police after a car drove through the crowd.— Sergio Quintana (@svqjournalist) June 18, 2020
So far no reports of injuries. pic.twitter.com/2ud9l7UC2K
The 30-foot-tall contemporary sculpture depicting Sir Francis Drake went up in 1990, and it is the work of San Rafael-based artist Dennis Patton. Speaking to ABC7 last month about the activists pushing for its removal, Patton said dismissively, "They think they're doing something important. They're not." Responding to a comment from an activist who said he hadn't realized until recently who the statue depicted, and that he thought it might be Don Quixote, Patton added, "If they pull this off, I'll just name rename it Don Quixote." He also said he might just take the scrap metal to Burning Man.
A separate movement, and petition, is calling for the renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, which wends through multiple communities in the county, and will be a county-level process.
"To have the main road that travels through Marin County be named after a known slave trader glorifies and honors his work," the petition reads. "Honoring a slave trader is incredibly offensive and isn't inclusive to Marin's community at large."
Drake was one of the first Europeans to explore the California coast, and staked a claim in the area of Point Reyes and what's now known as Drake's Bay in the summer of 1579 — claiming the area for England and calling it New Albion. Drake was at least not known in this instance to have killed any indigenous people, and reportedly had friendly interactions with the Coast Miwok as he and his crew repaired the hull of a ship.
But he literally only spent a matter of weeks in the area before setting sail again, and it is frankly silly that white Americans named so many things in Marin County after him — including Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo.
A similar movement is underway to remove a statue in Drake's honor in Plymouth, England, from where he set sail.
Will the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in SF be next for renaming?