JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence’s historic and controversial Christopher Columbus statue, which has been sitting in storage for nearly three years, is officially in its new home.
The statue was gifted to the town of Johnston by former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino Jr., who bought it from the city earlier this year.
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena Jr. told 12 News there are plans to secure the statue behind a fence and under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras.
“It means a lot,” Polisena said. “We have a high percentage of Italian Americans here in Johnston, but it goes beyond Italian-Americans. It’s American history. It’s world history. It’s important and I don’t think the majority of people wanted to see the statue melted down.”
The statue was originally located in Columbus Square on Elmwood Avenue in Providence but was boarded up a few years ago after vandals threatened to tear it down.
Numerous residents walking through Johnston Memorial Park Tuesday stopped to watch as the statue was lowered into place.
“It reminds me of a lot — [our] heritage,” Johnston resident John Derensis said of the statue. “I’m glad it’s here.”
Juan Manuel Rodrigues argues that the statue is a contradiction to what the park stands for — freedom.
“I’m not happy with this,” he said. “This guy didn’t bring [us] freedom. He brought disease, racism and assassination.”
Though the statue has caused its fair share of controversy, Johnston residents appeared to respect each other’s opinions.
“Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion,” Francis Olasanoye said. “Nobody has control over that.”
The statue is set to be officially unveiled on Columbus Day.