CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The City of Chula Vista put a Christopher Columbus statue in storage Friday morning, citing “public safety concerns” ahead of a protest at the park where it stands.
In recent weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement has renewed calls to remove statues for confederate leaders and other controversial figures. At times, activists have even taken matter into their own hands, tearing down the monuments.
Protesters from the American Indian Movement SoCal planned to meet Friday at Discovery Park to encourage the statue’s removal, but the city beat them to the punch. Chula Vista did not directly reference the protest in the park, where the Columbus statue stands, stating simply: “The statue was removed out of public safety concerns.”
The city promised that the statue’s ultimate fate will be decided in a public forum soon.
“On February 27, 2020, the Chula Vista Human Relations Commission approved a resolution to request the City Council consider the removal of the statue,” officials wrote in a news release.
“Due to restrictions related to coronavirus, there has not been an opportunity to hold a public forum for community dialogue. It is expected that the item will be brought forward for further public input and consideration.”
Officials have been considering impassioned calls to remove the oft-vandalized statue for years, with activists arguing the monument glorifies the explorer and colonist despite the violence against indigenous people that took place during his conquests.
“He came here, he stole land, enslaved people,” one speaker said, at a recent city meeting.
Some states, plus at least seven cities in California, have ditched the celebration of Columbus Day on similar grounds.
But others have said the story of Columbus is an important part of Italian-American and Catholic heritage, and that Columbus remains a highly notable historical figure.
“We stand proudly of our history. History of our faith, history of the world, history of our country,” Rene Trevino, with the conservative Catholic organization Knights of Columbus, recently told the council.
The statue was created in the 1990s by the sculptor Mario Zamora, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s research system.