MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — A statue of Christopher Columbus was temporarily removed from Middletown's Harbor Park over the weekend in preparation for construction work, but officials are considering making the move permanent amid debate nationally over the explorer's legacy.
Maintenance work at the park is scheduled to start in early July, and Mayor Ben Florsheim said that the temporary removal and storage of the statue was approved at the last meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
But the move was made a few weeks early out of concern for the statue's safety. In recent days, Columbus statues have been vandalized in Providence, Boston and other cities. The future of a statue recently removed in New London, Connecticut, to protect it from vandalism will be discussed at Monday's city council meeting.
In 2017, the Harbor Park statue was vandalized with red paint, as was a statue of Columbus in New Haven's Wooster Square
Now city leaders are discussing whether it should be displayed in a public park going forward or possibly moved to private property, Florsheim said Sunday on Facebook.
"The fraught debate over Christopher Columbus's legacy is one that's important to have in Middletown," Florsheim wrote. He said he has received many calls and messages from residents noting that Columbus statues are being taken down in other cities and that they'd like Middletown's removed as well. Others have told him they want to keep the statue because it represents their own families' history.
While some want to honor Columbus' historical contribution as an explorer, others view him as a symbol of conquest and subjugation of indigenous people.