Christopher Columbus’ four transatlantic voyages opened the way for European exploration of the Americas. While once held in high regard for his daring and ambition — such that counties, cities, and towns across the United States were named after him — in recent years, he has been subjected to routine defamation and denunciations by leftists.
As part of this ongoing anti-Western campaign, iconoclasts have sought to deface and raze various Columbus statues. The 15th-century Italian’s statue in Providence, Rhode Island, was no exception. The city saw fit to tear down the monument amid the costly BLM riots in 2020.
The historic statue, which is over a century old, has since found a home in a town unembarrassed by its history.
Joseph Polisena Jr., the mayor of Johnston, Rhode Island, noted in a Sept. 26 post on X, “He’s here.”
“A huge thank you to all the companies that donated their time and resources to get this done,” wrote Polisena. “Our Columbus Day event will be on Monday, October 9 at 11am.”
What’s the background?
The 6,000-pound Columbus statue had stood at Elmwood and Reservoir Avenues in Providence since 1893.
In the lead-up to the 2020 BLM riots, vandals took to splashing the statue with red paint, on at least one occasion spray-painting, “Stop celebrating genocide,” reported the Associated Press.
After the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee was torn down in Richmond, Virginia, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City announced its plan to remove a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, and radicals tore down the statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg in Madison, Wisconsin — just three of the hundreds of monuments toppled nationwide — Democrats in Rhode Island figured they would similarly go farther than red paint and blood libels.
The Providence Journal reported that former Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza announced the statue’s removal in June 2020, noting that a six-member committee would subsequently help the city determine what to do with it.
Protesters chanted, “Take it down! Take it down!” as a crane removed the statue and set it down on a flatbed truck.
The historic monument was placed in storage for well over a year.
Ray Rickman, who headed the committee advising the city on what to do with the statue, said, “Columbus is not to be respected if you pay any attention,” reported WJAR-TV.
Elorza made clear the statue wouldn’t be returning to its former spot, saying, “It’s either insulting to a certain group or it’s going to get destroyed. And if it doesn’t get destroyed, it’s going to take a lot of resources from the city to keep it from being destroyed, and we still can’t guarantee it.”
Defying the iconoclasts
Former Providence Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Malta Joseph Paolino Jr. ultimately bought the statue for $50,000 after it had been left to gather dust, reported the Providence Journal.
Paolino understood that the statue was “a symbol of Italian culture,” which he did not want to see melted down and turned into scrap metal.
Paolino subsequently reached out to see whether Johnston, a town of roughly 30,000, would take it. After all, 49.5% of Johnston’s residents reportedly have Italian heritage, and its mayor had previously indicated he’d make a home for the statue.
Johnston Mayor Polisena ultimately seized upon the former mayor’s offer, stressing Columbus is a “very important figure for Italian-Americans”; a historic figure who “really ushered in the modern era … the age of discovery.”
While acknowledging that nobody is perfect, Polisena said, “I don’t judge people who lived 500 years ago based on modern standards. I’m sure 500 years from now, people will look back on some of the things we did and say, ‘I can’t believe they did that.'”
The mayor noted that the reactions to the statue have so far been positive, but that prospective critics can rest assured that no tax money was spent on the statue.
The Associated Press indicated leftists farther afield are already fuming.
Harrison Tuttle, a failed Democratic candidate for state Senate and current resident of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC, said, “You don’t have to be Indigenous to understand the harm that Christopher Columbus inflicted. … To see it go back up is really tone deaf to all the progress we made just three years ago.”
Johnston’s Columbus Day event is unlikely to be a one-off.
“I’m hoping to make it an annual event,” said the mayor. “People should learn about him, the good and the bad.”
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