Protesters in Baltimore pulled down a Christopher Columbus statue and threw it into the city’s Inner Harbor on Independence Day. Demonstrators used ropes to yank down the Columbus statue that is located near the city’s Little Italy neighborhood as fireworks went off across the city on the Fourth of July. It marks the latest toppling of a monument as the United States—and other countries around the world—go through a very public reckoning over systemic racism and police violence. In Baltimore, the statue was toppled and tossed into the harbor as part of a demonstration that demanded, among other things, to decrease the budget for the police department and the removal of statues “honoring white supremacists, owners of enslaved people, perpetrators of genocide, and colonizers.”
Columbus statues have been targeted as part of the protests as demonstrators have vandalized or torn them down in numerous cities, including Miami; Richmond, Virginia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Boston. It also took place on a weekend when Trump characterized those who want to topple statues as members of a “left-wing cultural revolution” that is trying to rewrite U.S. history.
The Columbus statue in Baltimore was owned by the city and dedicated in 1984 by former Mayor William Donald Schaefer and President Ronald Reagan. But the city government didn’t seem too angry about losing the monument. Yanking down the statue is part of a “re-examination taking place nationally and globally around some of these monuments and statues that may represent different things to different people,” Lester Davis, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, told the Baltimore Sun on Saturday night. “We understand the dynamics that are playing out in Baltimore are part of a national narrative.” Davis also emphasized that protecting statues was not a priority for the police in the city because they have a lot of bigger issues to worry about. “Our officers in Baltimore City, who are some of the finest in country, they are principally concerned with the preservation of life,” he said. “That is sacrosanct. Everything else falls secondary to that, including statues.”
Whether to tear down the statue had already been an issue of debate in the city. The president of the City Council, Brandon Scott, who is also the Democratic nominee for mayor, said Saturday night he had suggested the statue be taken down in 2017 when several Confederate monuments were removed. Other local lawmakers had recently argued that the city needed to do more to protect and preserve the city’s Columbus statues.
During a speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday, Trump unveiled an executive order to establish a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will include statues of “historically significant Americans.” The executive order specifically notes that those to be included in the garden include “public figures such as Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra, and the Marquis de La Fayette, who lived prior to or during the American Revolution and were not American citizens, but who made substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of the future United States.”