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Base of another Columbus statue in Philadelphia is covered

June 17, 2020 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The base of a second monument honoring Christopher Columbus is being hidden from view while its future is debated after the explorer became a focus of protesters in Philadelphia amid nationwide demonstrations following George Floyd’s death in Minnesota.

The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation said the monument at Penns Landing on the Delaware River marked the 500th anniversary of the explorer’s first voyage, but the organization recognizes that it “is a focus of controversy and pain for many.”

The group said the statue “fails to address atrocities committed against indigenous people” and therefore does not reflect the organization’s “mission to create and maintain a safe and welcoming space for all.”

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The nonprofit said discussions about the monument’s future would involve the city and other stakeholders and could result in its removal, but until a decision is made, “the base of the monument will be covered in an effort to protect public safety, reduce continued pain and to act as a platform for meaningful engagement.”

The 106-foot Robert Venturi-designed work constructed in 1992 is “a reimagined obelisk” topped by a weather vane representing the colors of Italy, the country of the explorer’s birth, and Spain, the country for which he sailed. It also was intended to represent “the role that all immigrants played in shaping Philadelphia and the United States, according to the nonprofit group’s website.

Earlier, city crews built a wooden box around a statue of Columbus in south Philadelphia following clashes between protesters and residents as Mayor Jim Kenney announced a process to decide its future.

In Philadelphia, a city with a deep Italian heritage, supporters at the statue said they considered him an emblem of their heritage. The mayor said Columbus had been venerated for centuries as an explorer but had a “much more infamous” history, having enslaved indigenous people and imposed punishments such as severing limbs or even death.

Statues of Columbus were earlier removed in nearby Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware. In Richmond, Virginia, a statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down, set on fire and thrown into a lake. On Friday in Columbia, South Carolina, the first U.S. city named for Columbus, a statue of the explorer was removed after it was vandalized several times, and a vandalized statue in Boston also was removed from its pedestal.

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Floyd, who was black, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into the unarmed and handcuffed man’s neck even as he pleaded for air and stopped moving.

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POLICE VEHICLES BURNED

Federal authorities have announced the arrest of a woman in connection with the arson of two police vehicles during civil disorder following protests last month.

Authorities said Wednesday they will seek to hold 33-year-old Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal pending trial on the arson charges.

After peaceful afternoon protests May 30 were followed by widespread property destruction, burglary and arson, a police sedan and a sport utility vehicle parked near City Hall were set afire and both were destroyed, authorities said.

Defense attorney Paul Heznecker said Wednesday that “the investigative techniques utilized by the government will be under scrutiny” during the pretrial investigation.

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