COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Christopher Columbus statue on the campus of Columbus State Community College was vandalized overnight.
Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Columbus State Community College says someone spray painted graffiti and poured red paint on the 40-foot figure of its namesake. Police say red paint was thrown on the statue and spray paint was used to write messages on the statue.
The vandalism happened less than one day after the college announced it would remove the symbol in solidarity with the fight against systemic racism. Columbus State announced Tuesday the statue would be removed from campus in the next two weeks.
“The removal of the Christopher Columbus statue is a symbolic gesture of our commitment to our College and in our community to continue and accelerate the fight against systemic racism,” said Columbus State President David Harrison.
Christopher Austin recently started a petition to remove a similar statue outside of Columbus City Hall and said the vandalism is a product of the frustration felt by many.
“People are taking it into their own hands as we saw at Columbus State. People are vandalizing. They’re upset, they’re angry,” Austin said.
By Wednesday morning, Austin’s petition had more than 2,600 signatures. Elissa Washuta, an assistant professor of English at the Ohio State University and a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, believes the Columbus statues are a constant reminder of the atrocities committed by the famous navigator. She hopes the city of Columbus will come to terms with pain associated with the figure.
“I think that that’s a terrible symbol to be in front of city hall,” Washuta said. “I think it really is a large embodiment of that legacy of violence.”
Some in Central Ohio’s Italian community were troubled by the overnight vandalism. Several Italian heritage groups have proposed moving the statues to private clubs.
“Italians and Columbus have a special connection to the person that the town is named after,” said Bill De Mora of the Italian Club. “And there’s a large Italian population in the city who doesn’t want to see these things just thrown away or put in a warehouse.”
De Mora acknowledged the troublesome connections associated with Christopher Columbus, but also said the figure should not be excluded from history.
“What we need to do more is teach and learn and learn from mistakes and move forward. And I think this could be a perfect opportunity to do those things,” De Mora said.
Austin agreed the history of Columbus should be studied and the statues should be preserved for historical purposes, but he also said they would be better suited to a museum or in a private collection.
“We have to make a decision to stop clinging to relics and emblems and symbols of the past. Society all over this nation is crying out for change,” Austin said.
The petition author said the only official response he’s received from Columbus City Council members said the council is first focusing on police reform before tackling outrage over the Columbus statues. On Twitter Tuesday, President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown said, “Christopher
Columbus led the brutalizing and murder of indigenous people in this hemisphere. It’s (past) time for his statue at City Hall to go.”
So far, Columbus State has not announced when it will remove the statue. It plans to replace the symbol with an art installation.