PHOTOS BY KEIKO HIROMI
“Any attempt to erase our history through the restoration of the statue will be met by Black and Indigenous peoples asserting our rights and sovereignty.”
Across the country this week, amid protests against police brutality and racism following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, statues of mythological hero Christopher Columbus were damaged. Following similar assaults on genocidal tributes to imagined history in Minnesota and Virginia, in Boston’s North End, residents woke up on Wednesday to find the monument in Columbus’s namesake park beheaded.
At a subsequent rally calling for police accountability on Boston City Hall Plaza, news of the headless idol was noted by protesters. Of indigenous peoples who were slaughtered by Columbus, one supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement said, “I stand with them in solidarity.”
Before a City of Boston cleanup crew came to haul off the carcass, people stopped by to check out the spectacle. Eileen Devlin, a white woman, said that as a child she only learned about Columbus as an explorer, but not about the genocide. “I feel like I was robbed of my education,” Devlin said.
The headless statue of Columbus was removed and placed in storage early Thursday morning, with Mayor Marty Walsh telling reporters, “Given the conversations that we are certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we are going to take time to assess the historic meaning of the statue.”
In another response, representatives of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB), United American Indians of New England (UAINE), and IndigenousPeoplesDayMA gathered at the site of the headless Columbus statue on Wednesday evening. Organizers of the action released the following statement:
In this hailstorm of liberation actions across the U.S. and the globe, Indigenous organizers in Boston are demanding more change. First, they insist that all statutes and symbols honoring Columbus be permanently removed as they are symbols of white supremacy. Next they demand that cities and the Commonwealth abolish “Columbus Day” and replace it with “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
According to Jean-Luc Pierite, President of the NAICOB Board, “This art installation [the Columbus statue] is representative of the state violence endured by Black and Indigenous peoples for over 500 years. Any attempt to erase our history through the restoration of the statue will be met by Black and Indigenous peoples asserting our rights and sovereignty. We call upon our relations to join us in peaceful, prayerful acts of protection. In this way, we will honor our ancestors.”
Mahtowin Munro, spokesperson for IndigenousPeoplesDayMA.org and UAINE, said, “Last night in Boston, a little slice of symbolic justice was served to all, and that is significant for all the victims of genocide and slavery in the Americas. This park should belong to the people of Boston and be a public place that feels welcoming to everyone in Boston, not a place that is a tribute to a genocidal monster.
While we were glad to learn that Boston’s Mayor Walsh will be removing the statue in order to ‘assess’ next steps, we are putting the city on notice that we will oppose any efforts to bring the statue back. We have been protesting the statue for years as a monument to Indigenous genocide and land theft, African and Indigenous enslavement, and white supremacy. We have been demanding that the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts join cities, towns and states throughout the US in abolishing Columbus Day and instead celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day.”
Mea Johnson, Vice President of the NAICOB Board, said, “Indigenous and Black liberation is entwined. Our solidarity with our Black Sisters and Brothers is firmly rooted in breaking the chain of atrocities from the inception of the U.S. project. We stand. We rise. We demand that Black Lives Matter. We are out here fighting for freedom and liberation. We could not be more supportive of Black folks across the country and the world. We say #BlackLivesMatter today and everyday. We will never stop fighting in support of BLM.”