Columbus Statue Gets Covered As City Celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day
A statue of Christopher Columbus in Downtown L.A. was covered up in paper on Monday. The day was previously regarded in L.A. as Columbus Day—a paid holiday for city workers— up until the L.A. City Council voted in August to eliminate the holiday.
As reported at CBS 2, the statue was covered up with white paper, with a chain-link fence erected around it. The statue stands in an area between downtown’s Grand Park and L.A. County’s Stanley Mosk Courthouse. CBS said city officials had not announced that they would be covering up the display. Video of the covered statue was put up on social this morning (above, courtesy of @LiloEskimo and CBS News). Here’s a picture of the (uncovered) statue posted up in 2013:
The move comes after the city council voted in late August to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as a paid holiday for city workers. As with Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day will happen on the second Monday of every October. Today marks the first Indigenous Peoples Day in spirit; the city is still in the midst of creating a new ordinance to rename the holiday in city code, with the mandate that everything be finalized by 2019.
On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisor followed suit and voted 4 to 1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day; the change will take effect in the 2019 calendar year, reports Los Angeles Daily News. “It recognizes that we do not support oppression, bigotry, hatred or genocide, ” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, according to the Daily News. “The county of Los Angeles, as you know, has a unique and rich history. Yet we don’t honor or recognize them in any meaningful day.”
Monday (which is regarded as a federal holiday in observance of Columbus Day) drew attention to a number of Columbus statues across the nation. One statue in Chicago was splashed with red paint, with the words “mass murderer" and "decolonize!" written on it, reports DNAInfo Chicago. In Pennsylvania, a bust of Columbus was reportedly covered with a ski mask on Monday, says Fox 43. In Connecticut, authorities say that two Columbus statues were vandalized over the weekend, reports the New York Post. In the above video, one person says that officials may have wrapped the L.A. statue in paper to deter vandalism.
The debate over Columbus’ legacy took center stage during the L.A. City Council’s August vote. Those in support of replacing Columbus Day touched on what historians say is the explorer’s record of slavery and oppression. "The creation of Indigenous Peoples Day is an act of restoring historical justice. Failing to do so would engender the opposite effect," Shannon Speed, a professor at UCLA who identifies as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, said during the public comment period. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who introduced the motion to install Indigenous Peoples Day, said the renaming was about correcting a “historical wrong.”
Those who wanted to keep Columbus Day said that Columbus had come to represent Italian-Americans and their heritage in the United States. "What I don't support, is replacing the underlying meaning behind a holiday that is important. There's social and cultural importance to Italian Americans," said Councilman Joe Buscaino.
The council would vote 14 to 1 in favor of replacing Columbus Day. The vote also introduced an Italian American Heritage Day that will be observed on October 12 of each year (the day will not be a holiday for city workers, however). The County Board of Supervisors also voted to install Italian American Heritage Day for October 12.
O'Farrell will help host a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day at UCLA's Fowler Museum today at 5 p.m. You can find information about the celebration on the event's Facebook page.
LAist reached out to L.A. County Public Works (the statue, while in downtown L.A., sits on County property) to ask how long the statue will remain covered, but no one was immediately available for response.