California legislative leaders on Tuesday announced that a statue paying tribute to Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella will be removed from the state Capitol after 137 years.
“Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Assembly Rules Chair Ken Cooley said in a statement. “The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today. It will be removed.”
A week ago, protesters in Minnesota toppled a Columbus statue at the state capitol. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) also defended New York City’s statue paying tribute to Columbus by arguing that the statue honoring him near Central Park “represents” the legacy and contributions of Italian Americans in the country.
The Golden State’s announcement comes amid a growing nationwide movement to take down monuments linked to racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for the removal of nearly a dozen statues in the Capitol paying tribute to Confederate figures in a letter sent to the leadership of the Joint Committee on the Library. Pelosi wrote that statues in the Capitol “should embody our highest ideals as Americans” and that monuments of men linked to the Confederacy must be removed “immediately.”
A week later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rejected Pelosi’s demand, telling reporters that her request to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol is an effort to “airbrush” history.
“What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” McConnell said on Tuesday afternoon.
Although President Trump has yet to specifically address the growing nationwide movement to remove monuments linked to racism, he tweeted last week that he will “not even consider” changing military bases named in honor of Confederate generals.