Nutley, like untold numbers of other cities across the country, has a statue of the Italian sailor whose voyages are credited with putting the Americas on the map. Until recently, honoring the Genoan explorer by naming statues, rivers, or municipalities after him was done without a second thought, as it was his discovery that led to the eventual settlement of the New World and, by extension, the eventual creation of the United States of America.
However, Columbus’ actions also led to the enslavement and wholesale genocide of native populations. Viewed through the lens of modern attitudes, his actions are not worthy of celebration, and institutions honoring him need to go, say opponents.
Such was the case in Nutley on Friday night, when a group of protesters convened on the statue to demand its removal. There, they were met with counter protesters intent on making sure the statue stays.
The two sides exchanged chants and shouts, but police prevented any fisticuffs by moving barriers that had protected the statue and used them to separate the two sides. Similarly, police also stood between the two groups of protesters.
Catherine Pezo, who organized the protest in favor of the statue’s removal, says that the statue’s presence near the town hall is a tacit and blatant denial of racism.
“The statue happens to be where the police station and town hall is. There’s blatant denial of racism in this town by many leaders. We’re supporting the nationwide and worldwide Black Lives Matter Movement,” she said.
Counter protester Lisa Mandericho doesn’t see it that way. She admits that Columbus was a flawed man, but says that erasing history won’t change that.
“We’re here to protect American history. I understand it’s ugly but not all of history is ugly. If you take it down there’s no reminder of what needs to be fixed,” she said.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, statues of Confederate fighters have been removed by governments or torn down by protesters, as have statues of other people with problematic pasts, including Columbus.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, authorities in St. Louis, Missouri, removed a statue of Columbus in part to protect it from vandalism, a move that was seen as insulting by some members of the city’s Italian community.