Christopher Columbus statue removed from St. Louis park

JIM SALTER
Associated Press
A statue of Christopher Columbus, erected in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis 140 years ago, is taken down Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at the direction of the park's Board of Commissioners. Such statues have come down in other U.S. cities after being viewed by some as symbols of exploitation. It will be cleaned and put in storage, with its future undecided.

O'FALLON — A statue of Christopher Columbus that stood in a St. Louis park for 134 years was removed Tuesday amid a growing national outcry against monuments to the 15th century explorer.

The commissioners who oversee Tower Grove Park recently voted to remove the statue. It was loaded onto a truck Tuesday, but it wasn't clear what will become of it. Park officials didn't immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment.

Several Columbus statues have been targeted during the widespread protests over the death of George Floyd and racial inequality. Floyd, who was black and handcuffed, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes, even after Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.

A Columbus statue in Richmond, Virginia, was toppled last week. Seven people were arrested  for vandalizing a statue of the explorer in Miami. And a statue of Columbus in Boston  was beheaded.

In a statement on Tower Grove Park's Facebook page, the park board said the statue was originally placed in the park to celebrate the contributions of immigrants to the St. Louis region.

"But now, for many, it symbolizes a historical disregard for indigenous peoples and cultures and destruction of their communities," it said.

Statues of Columbus across the nation are often vandalized on Columbus Day in October as the explorer has become a polarizing figure. Native American advocates have also long pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

The St. Louis statue, dedicated in 1886, was the subject of protests in September. The park board, at the time, decided to keep the statue but add signs and markers that added historical context.

People watch as the pedestal that supported a statue of Christopher Columbus is removed after the statue was taken down , Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in St. Louis. The statue that stood in Tower Grove Park since the late 1800's was removed Tuesday morning amid a growing national outcry against monuments to the 15th century explorer.