Although it hasn’t been toppled … yet, one statue of Christopher Columbus is being covered for Columbus Day to avoid a “public safety risk.”
In Marconi Plaza, a historic public spot in South Philadelphia, a statue of the great Italian explorer still sits atop its perch. However, in testimony to the hatred Columbus has garnered in recent years for his treatment of native Americans, one local court has moved to keep a box covering the statue for the Columbus Day holiday.
A local ABC affiliate reported on October 11 that the Commonwealth Court overruled a weekend decision by a Common Pleas Court judge that a “plywood box” be removed from the statue of the controversial statue.
There has been much debate over the fact that the statue remains standing at all, especially in the wake of the BLM riots of 2020. In order to somewhat placate rabid Columbus haters, the statue had been covered in September just ahead of the holiday.
But that didn’t sit well with everyone in the community. Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick proposed on October 8 that officials could erect a “clear structure to protect the monument but must remove the plywood.”
The Common Pleas Court followed through on the decision until the Commonwealth Court reversed it. City representative Kevin Lessard claimed the covering was necessary during the holiday weekend because it “would pose a serious public safety risk.”
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The City of Philadelphia made an official statement on the decision to keep the box, saying, “the City is grateful that the Commonwealth Court took the time to review this important matter tonight. Earlier today, the City of Philadelphia filed an Emergency Application to reinstate the stay and preserve the status quo-the box protecting the statue.”
Of course, people opposed to obscuring the monument say that the plywood box is disrespectful of the city’s rich Italian-American heritage.
But what else would you expect from a city that celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day? Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order earlier this year which changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
As ABC Channel 6 reported, “Monday will be the first city holiday under the new name.” Kenney explained that he came to the decision because of Columbus’ “much more infamous history.”
Kenney had also pushed for the statue’s complete removal after the George Floyd riots because it endangered public safety. In July 2020 there was in fact a decision by the city historical commission to remove the statue -- which was upheld by a city licensing board.
However Judge Patrick overruled that decision in August, claiming that the statue could stay up and that there was insufficient evidence and no law deeming it necessary for the statue to be removed.
So right now, a box is the only relief rabid Columbus haters get.