PHILADELPHIA — A state court has allowed a plywood box, for now, to stand over a statue that Christopher Columbus was trying to remove from a South Philadelphia park. The decision comes amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Commonwealth Court rescinded a decision by a Common Pleas Court Judge to permit the immediate removal of the cover for the statue at Marconi Plaza.
City representative, stated Saturday night that removing the covering during the holiday weekend would “pose a serious public security risk.” He previously said officials would not attempt to remove it prior to the hearing at the state court.
Attorney George Bochetto, who represents supporters of the 144-year-old statue, had vowed that it would be visible by the time a scheduled Sunday parade concluded at the plaza.
Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick stated Friday that while the city could build a clear structure to guard the monument, it must also remove the plywood.
The city of Philadelphia has a rich Italian heritage and Columbus is an icon for that heritage. Mayor Jim Kenney stated that Columbus was revered for centuries as an explorer, but had a more notorious history of enslaving Indigenous peoples and inflicting punishments like death or limb loss.
Kenney previously signed an executive order to change the name of the city’s annual Columbus Day holiday, to Indigenous Peoples Day. Monday will be the city’s first holiday under its new name.
Following the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers last year, Kenney described the removal of the statue as a matter for public safety. Patrick wrote, however, that the city had not provided evidence that the statue needed to be removed to protect the public. He called the confrontations “isolated Civil Unrest .”
In August, a judge ruled that the statue could be left in place. He called the decision to remove the statue “baffling”, unsupported by law, and based upon insufficient evidence. This ruling overturned a city licensing board decision that had upheld a July 2020 city historical commission decision to remove the statue.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit settlement announced last month has allowed another 106-foot-tall Christopher Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River to remain in place with coverings removed for the foreseeable future, the paper reported.
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