NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The New Haven Parks Commission voted in favor of taking down the Christopher Columbus statue in Wooster Square Park.
The vote happened Wednesday night. The statue is slated to be taken down at some point in the next 60 days.
Controversial statues across the country have been getting taken down. The call for their removal, while not new, has escalated following protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in late-May. The statues showcased people in American history that many argue should not be celebrated including Christopher Columbus, General Robert. E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.
The statue of Christopher Columbus in New Haven’s Wooster Square has been vandalized numerous times in recent years including less than a week ago.
“It’s a very storied, historic community here and people are very strong and proud of their side of history,” said Jon Bronke of New Haven. “So, I certainly respect all sides involved.”
“I think it’s an important conversation that we’ve been having in New Haven for a few years,” said State Rep. Roland Lemar (D-New Haven). He lives near where the Columbus statue has stood since 1892.
“I think a lot of the stories we were told as we were young and growing up we found out through history and greater examination just aren’t true,” he added.
“All of those accounts come from a man named, who wrote a book called A People’s History of the United States, written by a Marxist historian Howard Zinn,” said Al Ippolito, who also lives in the neighborhood near the statue.
“There are a number of books out there by Mary Graybar debunking Howard Zinn,” said Robert Ferrito of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America. “He never owned any slaves. He never brought any from the western hemisphere, from Africa. He never did any of those things. He never even stepped foot in the United States.”
Columbus is believed to have never stepped foot in North America. It's also theorized that Viking explorers touched down on North America several centuries prior.
Over the years, as more and more people denounced Columbus, cities and towns have been replacing "Columbus Day" with "Indigenous Peoples Day". The day is meant to celebrate indigenous people and their culture and commemorates their history.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, whose city will also be removing its Columbus statue, will be talking with the family of the sculptor of their statue and members of the Italian-American community to discuss the next steps.
“Using Columbus as the hero of the Italian-American community probably doesn’t make much sense anymore and we’ve got plenty of heroes that we can celebrate,” State Rep. Lemar says.