Italian community leaders are taking steps to remove the Christopher Columbus Statue from Wooster Square Park as other community leaders call for it, according to the mayor's office. The debate over what to do with such statues is one playing out in cities across the country.
While some, especially in the Italian-American community, view Columbus as a historic icon, others see him as a symbol of injustice and a reminder of the mistreatment of indigenous people and people of color.
Mayor Justin Elicker's office confirmed Monday night that the city is making plans to remove the statue, though an exact timeline has not been set.
In a joint statement, community leaders and residents pushed to remove the controversial statue and have it replaced by something else, suggesting the statue go to a museum so it can be learned from and remembered in full context.
"In the midst of this historic moment, the most important thing each of us can do is listen. We should listen first and foremost to those people who have been personally impacted by systemic and historic racism in our country, and especially in our criminal justice system. We should listen broadly about their life experiences and treatment, and also more specifically about what steps must be taken to fully meet this moment so that we can build a better and fairer society," the statement read in part.
In his own statement, Elicker said many leaders in the Italian community have considered removing the statue, which he believes is the right call.
"I’m proud of the many leaders in the Italian Community who have taken proactive steps to decide to remove the Christopher Columbus statue from Wooster Square Park," Elicker wrote. "The Christopher Columbus statue for many Italians is a celebration of Italian heritage. But the statue of Christopher Columbus also represents a time of colonialism and atrocities committed. It is the right decision to remove the statue. After the statue is removed, I believe it is important that we, as a community, have a conversation about how to best honor the heritage of so many Italians who have made New Haven their home."
A Change.org petition calling for the statue's removal has more than 1,500 signatures.
Last week New London's mayor decided to remove the city's Columbus statue to prevent potential vandalism. It was taken down Sunday and the city council is scheduled to discuss what to do with it on Tuesday.