California will remove statues of Christopher Columbus and his patron Queen Isabella from the state Capitol rotunda, 137 years after they were installed there.
Democratic state legislative leaders announced Tuesday that the marble statues are set to be removed, calling Columbus a “deeply polarizing” figure.
“Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations,” read the joint statement from Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Rules Chair Ken Cooley. “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.”
It is unclear when exactly the statues will be taken down, although Cooley said officials have been discussing removing the monument since January.
Columbus Day is still a state holiday celebrated on the second Monday in October, according to California law. A 2018 effort in the state Senate to rename the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” failed before the proposal received a hearing.
California’s decision comes after statues of Columbus were defaced around the country this month as protests continue against racism and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Sculptures of the famous historical figure were defaced and torn down by demonstrators last week in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week that he supports keeping Manhattan’s statue of the Italian explorer, saying it represents “the Italian-American legacy” in America.
Other historical figures have also been targeted for removal in recent weeks, including Confederate statues that stand in the Capitol building in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for their removal last week.
“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi said.