Providence removes Christopher Columbus statue until board decides its fate


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Christopher Columbus statue located in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood has been removed for the time being, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced Thursday.

Elorza said the Special Committee for Commemorative Works will gather feedback from the community and provide advisement to the Board of Parks Commissioners, which will make the final decision on the statue’s future.

The six-member committee was created recently to engage residents in evaluating historical works around the city, which includes reviewing applications for new commemorative works and the proposed modification, relocation, or deaccession of existing works.

“We want our community’s voice centered in the decisions made around the memorials, historical markers and monuments that represent our city,” Elorza said. “These works should reflect the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and be a source of pride for the residents who live within them.”

“Through this committee, we are allowing the community to take an active role in shaping these decisions and hope that through future projects, we can better reflect the collective memory of our beautiful city in these landmarks,” he continued.

The Columbus statue was boarded up and fenced off for more than a week to protect it from being defaced or destroyed by vandals.

Earlier this week, a flyer circulating on social media calling upon vandals to tear it down left police on high alert, prompting a massive police response.

The statue has been vandalized several times within recent years, including twice last year; once on Columbus Day and the other just days before Thanksgiving.

The vandalism has sparked a debate over whether or not to move the statue to Federal Hill.

Councilman James Taylor opposes the relocation of the statue, arguing that the statue was a gift to the Elmwood Neighborhood Association and is a “steadfast reminder of Elmwood’s past and prosperity.”

He argues that Elorza did not have the authority to remove the statue and the decision to temporarily remove it should’ve been up to the Board of Commissioners.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Kat Kerwin expressed her support for the removal of the statue from the capital city completely.

Taylor said until a decision on the statue’s future is decided, it will remain in storage.

Related: RI Indian Council: Now is the time to discuss Columbus statue’s history, learn from past mistakes »

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