Protesters tear down Christopher Columbus statue in Minnesota

SAINT PAUL – A group of protesters knocked down a statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday, the newest U.S. monument to be torn down during nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racial inequalities.

The 3-meter bronze statue was pulled from the granite base by several dozen people led by a Minnesota-based Native American activist outside the Capitol, documented by news photographers and television camera operators.

“It was the right thing to do and the right time to do it,” activist Mike Forcia told Reuters in clear reference to more than two weeks of protests over the May 25 death of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, master of a Minneapolis police officer.

Native American activists have long objected to honoring Columbus, saying his expeditions to America led to the colonization and genocide of their ancestors.

Saint Paul is adjacent to Minneapolis and the two are commonly referred to as the Twin Cities.

Forcia said he had been advised by a Minnesota state trooper that he could be arrested and charged with criminal destruction in the coming days. A city crew removed the statue, which was broken at the base.

According to a website for the Capitol, the monument was created by sculptor Carlo Brioschi and dedicated in 1931 as a gift to the city of Italian-Americans in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, a monument to Columbus, erected in Richmond, Virginia, was destroyed in 1927 and thrown into a lake. In the early hours of Wednesday in Boston, the head of a statue of the explorer was removed and broken.

In Washington, speaker Nancy Pelosi of the United States House of Representatives urged Congress on Wednesday to remove 11 statues of Southern leaders and soldiers from the American Civil War from the United States Capitol.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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