Politics

Judge Orders Removal Of Plywood Box Covering Christopher Columbus Statue In Philadelphia

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A state court ruling will allow a plywood box to remain — for the moment — over a statue of Christopher Columbus that the city has been trying to remove from a south Philadelphia park since the explorer became a focus amid protests last year.

The Commonwealth Court ruling late Saturday night vacated a decision earlier in the day by a Common Pleas Court judge to allow immediate removal of the box covering the statue on Marconi Plaza.

City representative Kevin Lessard said Saturday night that removal of the covering during the holiday weekend “would pose a serious public safety risk.” He earlier said officials would stop any attempt to remove the covering prior to the state court hearing.

Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick issued a ruling Friday in response to a request by the Friends of Marconi Plaza. Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration quickly filed notice that it would appeal — and said it won’t remove the box in the meantime, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Attorney George Bochetto, who represents supporters of the 144-year-old statue, had vowed that it would be visible by the time a scheduled Sunday parade concluded at the plaza.

“If the city doesn’t take it down, we’ll take it down for them,” he said.

Kenney spokesperson Kevin Lessard said the statue should remain boxed up “in the best interest and public safety of all Philadelphians” and any destruction of public property would be a crime.

In Philadelphia, a city with a deep Italian heritage, supporters say they consider Columbus an emblem of that heritage. Kenney said Columbus was venerated for centuries as an explorer but had a “much more infamous” history, enslaving Indigenous people and imposing punishments such as severing limbs or even death.

Kenney earlier signed an executive order changing the name of the city’s annual Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. Monday will be the first city holiday under the new name.

After the unrest following the Minne… (Read more)

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