PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted in favor of removing the Christopher Columbus Statue from Marconi Plaza on Friday. Though the statue has sat in Marconi Plaza for more than a century, the controversy surrounding it reached a peak this year. On Friday, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted 10-2 to have the 144-year-old statue removed.
“We do not tear down monuments of people of the past no more than we burn books,” a Philadelphia resident who opposes removing the statue said.
“The reasons I support the initiative to remove the Christopher Columbus statue is not an attack to the Italian American community as many here say, it’s very important to learn about our humanity, shared humanity, but also our community has been subjected to many different kinds of violence,” a Philadelphia resident who supports removing the statue said.
Friday’s decision came down after hours of testimony from the public, the majority of those participating voicing their desire to keep the statue where it is.
City Public Arts Director Margot Berg says preliminary findings from an online survey show otherwise, with 80% in favor of removal.
“Your obligation, as you know it well, and in fact our societal obligation is to take history as it comes to us, not as we wish it would have been kinder and more equitable based on some 21st-century standard,” another Philadelphia resident who opposes removing the statue said.
The hearing comes about a month after protests at the plaza, some arguing that Columbus represents racism and oppression. Counterprotesters, some armed, gathered to protect the statute from vandalism.
“I don’t know who the arts commission judges are to be the ones to say this is going to come down,” Anthony Giordano, president of Stand Up South Philadelphia and Take Out Streets Back, said.
Giordano says his group was founded to improve the quality of life for those in South Philly. He wants the statue to stay, but says with Friday’s vote, he hopes it’s moved to another public place.
“They should have a place to store the statue that the public can go and view the statue,” Giordano said. “It is art, and they are an art commission. This is something that should not be torn down and thrown away. And for the Art Commission to say not to view this would be absurd.”
Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration supports the removal of the statue, saying it’s in the interest of public safety due to the protests that have sprouted up around it.
The final decision will be made by the Art Commission on Aug. 12.