A bronze sculpture of Christopher Columbus -- about 10 feet tall, and perched atop a red granite base of about the same height -- has been sitting outside the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul since 1931.
It was conceived a few years earlier, in 1927, during a meeting of the Italian Progressive Club of Duluth. At the time, Italian immigrants were widely disparaged and discriminated against, including in Minnesota’s Iron Range. Getting a monument, and a day, dedicated to this famous Italian seemed like a good way to incorporate the Italian identity into the American identity.
At the time, the American identity had a somewhat narrower, more European bandwidth. Being accepted as “American” was also about being accepted as white. That was increasingly expanding to include immigrants like Italians and people from eastern Europe. It didn’t include, however, the people who were here before Columbus -- and consequently suffered from the colonialism, genocide, and crimes against humanity he participated in elsewhere, and that followed here.
On Wednesday, a group of protesters, some of them Dakota and Ojibwe, pulled the 10-foot Columbus off his pedestal with a rope and sent him clattering to the ground. State Patrol troopers looked on at a distance and did not interfere. The victory was celebrated with traditional song and dance. Then the remains were carted away.
Some onlookers were shocked by how quick it was.
It came down super easy pic.twitter.com/os2owP6OWP— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) June 10, 2020
Some were shocked we even had a statue of that guy at the Capitol at all. Like, shouldn’t we have switched that guy out for Prince at some point?
Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, herself a member of the White Earth band of Ojibwe, released a statement admitting she couldn’t claim to be sad.
“I’m not,” she said. “It was a constant reminder that our systems were not built by or for Native people or people of color, but in many cases, to exclude, erase, and eliminate us.”
Other politicians expressed their disappointment and disdain for the apparent lawlessness on display. None quite defended Columbus as a historical figure, or the need for his statue to grace the Capitol grounds. Instead they worried about "public property."
Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), a man who once tried to ensure state actions and documents could only be presented in English, called out Flanagan’s position specifically, saying it was “sick.”
This, from Minnesota's Lt Governor. She endorses the destruction of public property by criminals, simply because the outcome supports her personal worldview. Sick! https://t.co/wnXtmTntRc— Steve Drazkowski (@SteveDraz) June 11, 2020
Sen. Dave Tomassoni (D-Chisholm) went as far as to suggest "reparations" be paid. (If we're keeping score, Columbus is probably so far in the hole he won't be able to discover his hand in front of his face.)
Wanton destruction of property on the Capitol grounds isn’t acceptable and is unlawful. It should have been stopped!What’s next? Destruction of the Capitol Bldg itself? Looting inside? Some one should be held accountable, arrested, charged, and pay reparations.— David Tomassoni (@Ranuccio11) June 11, 2020
To those concerned that the elimination of the statue would eliminate Columbus's place in history, State Auditor Julie Blaha suggested there were probably more effective methods of seeking out that information than staring at a man made of bronze. Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) didn't take kindly to that.
Madame Auditor, do you condone the destruction of property? Whether or not someone agrees with what the statue represents, wanton destruction of that item isn’t something we want our students to learn is it? Process is the way to change things, wouldn’t you agree?— Rep. Jim Nash (@JimNashMN) June 11, 2020
Former Republican Congressman Jason Lewis, a man who stood up for his right to call Madonna a slut on the air for a living, was absolutely incensed.
Once again MN Dems deliberately stood down as vandals took over the streets.— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) June 11, 2020
Without public order, anarchists will take over neighborhoods, parks, & your Capitol, demanding complete conformity.
Property, free speech, & the rule of law are under assault!https://t.co/PrlyS9FmLD
So was current Rep and former admin for the COVID Memes Facebook page Mary Franson (R-Alexandria).
Open up a business without the blessing of the Governor or Antifa Ellison and you’ll be fined $25,000 and slapped with a lawsuit though - thankful our Governor knows what real criminal behavior looks like ���� https://t.co/8KmH3fgdJ6— Rep. Mary Franson (@RepMaryFranson) June 10, 2020
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt called the people who'd pulled down Columbus "rioters," who were enabled by Gov. Tim Walz --
During the recent riots the governor promised leadership but stood by & allowed Minneapolis & the 3rd precinct to burn. Today his administration said they would protect the Capitol complex, but ordered officers to stand down & allow rioters to damage public property.#mnleg 3/4— Kurt Daudt (@kdaudt) June 11, 2020
And wondered how it was the press knew this was coming.
(It had been posted to Facebook as a public event.)
It wouldn't be a complete roundup without a word from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake), who believes an event in which nobody except a 10-foot bronze colonizer was hurt sets a "dangerous precedent."
The mob mentality to do whatever people want without repercussion has got to stop. This is another example of a complete failure of leadership from the Walz administration that sets a dangerous precedent of destruction as an acceptable tool to bring about social change. #mnleg— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) June 11, 2020
But we'll leave you with by far and away the broadest stroke being used to paint this incident, which comes not from Minnesota but from Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who referred to the protestors as, and we quote:
American Taliban. https://t.co/rYcKpvoYhk— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 11, 2020