The New London City Council has voted to permanently remove the city's Christopher Columbus statue.
At a virtual meeting Tuesday, more than 60 spoke before city councilors passed an ordinance stating that the statue will be permanently removed and not displayed anywhere in the city on public property. Councilors said they were in agreement on the vote, though one did not officially enter a vote because his iPad died.
This came amid thousands of people signing petitions to remove the statue, which has already been vandalized with spray paint.
“It is not a part of history that I care to remember. I think removing it is appropriate. I think prohibiting it from any public street is appropriate," President Pro Tempore Alma Nartatez said. "I do like the comments about putting this in a private museum."
A Change.org petition calls to get rid of the statue and replace it with one honoring leaders of the La Amistad revolt.
While some, especially in the Italian-American community, seek to honor Columbus' historical contribution, others say he is a symbol of conquest and subjugation of indigenous people.
“This statue does not represent who Italians are," Council President Efrain Dominguez, Jr. said. “It does not represent what you stand for now. It is just a statue that was there.” He added that the city wants to promote unity, not division.
“Tough, tough day for the Italians in our community, but it is time to move forward," Councilor John Satti said. He also suggested that the statue could go in a museum.
Councilor Curtis Goodwin said he is organizing a rally Wednesday, which will include a moment of silence for George Floyd, where the statue used to be.
"It's time to be more inclusive," he said.
This is a debate playing out in cities and towns across the country of whether to take down figures honoring Columbus as well as other controversial figures in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In Middletown, the mayor had the Columbus statue in Harbor Park taken down over the weekend and said there is interest in having the statue relocated to a privately-owned site with heritage significance to the Italian-American community.
In some cities and towns across the country, statues have been vandalized.
In Boston, a Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded and has been removed; in Richmond, Virginia, one was thrown in a lake.