New London takes down Columbus statue
New London — The city removed the controversial Christopher Columbus statue at Bank and Blinman streets Sunday morning and placed it in storage at an undisclosed location.
The statue had been defaced with red paint multiple times since an anti-police brutality protest in New London on June 6. Mayor Michael Passero said Sunday the statue is currently in a warehouse and declined to give its exact location.
Passero had announced plans to move the statue to a safe location on Thursday. He said his reasoning was that leaving the statue up would invite further damage. He said the toppling or beheading of Columbus statues in other cities informed his decision.
“After Boston and Baltimore, I thought to myself, ‘There may not be a statue here anymore if we leave it up,’” Passero said. “I was afraid of a copycat, and I felt responsible.”
Passero said the city couldn’t afford to continue cleaning up the statue every day. He’s leaving the decision on what to ultimately do with the statue to the City Council, which is scheduled to have a special meeting Tuesday to determine its future.
The city hired an outside company to remove the statue. Passero said the cost of the move was somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000.
Passero said he’s come around to the views of younger people, who point to the explorer’s sordid history, detailed by historians, of enslaving and killing native people as reason not to honor his memory. He did, however, make a distinction between Confederate monuments, erected with full knowledge of the Confederacy’s ignoble cause, and the Columbus statue — a gift from the Italian community to the city in 1928 and a source of pride for Italian-American families back when Columbus’ deeds were not fully understood.
“The statue is just too offensive to too many people,” Passero said. “While I would have rather waited to see the community consensus on what should happen and where it should go, it’s become such a lighting rod that I don’t see it being erected anywhere in the city, at least not right now.”
Passero said he tends to agree with people who say the statue belongs in a museum.
Across the country, protestors have defaced and torn down statues of Columbus over the past few weeks. On Saturday, city officials in Middletown removed a Columbus statue from a city park.