Fight continues over the fate of the Columbus statue

Written By Geena Provenzano

Despite a pledge from city officials that the Christopher Columbus statue be taken down, on Monday, Oct. 12 around 50 protesters gathered in Schenley Park to demand its immediate removal.

“We’re here to continue demanding that this statue needs to be removed immediately,” said protest leader Raheem Hani. “And not moved to the private property of the Italian community.”

After a long debate between Pittsburgh’s Art Commission and Bill Peduto, the mayor recommended that the statue come down. However, no clarification has been given on when it will be taken down or where it will be going. The statue has been covered in plastic until a decision is made.

The protest began as a discussion about the horrors Columbus inflicted on Native Americans and why it should be taken down. In between speakers they sang chants such as, “1, 2, 3, 4 Slavery, Genocide and War. 5, 6, 7, 8 America was never great.”

Many of the speakers also expressed their distaste for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“I want to ask Mayor Bill Peduto if he thinks a serial killer deserves commemoration,” said one speaker.

Occasionally the speeches were interrupted by counter protesters. Many were members of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), which commissioned $65,000 for the creation of the statue in 1958. On Oct. 9, the ISDA received a temporary injunction that will keep the statue standing in Schenley Park.

At around 6:45 p.m. protesters began painting the covered statue with words and phrases such as “murderer,” “colonizer” and “go to Hell.”

“This was the best thing Peduto has done,” Hani said. “Giving a canvas for us to paint on.”

As they painted, Civil Affairs, which had been waiting on Frew Street since 6:00 p.m., approached the statue and instructed protesters to stop painting. The protesters obliged but continued to surround the statue. At one point, an officer told a girl to stop using her megaphone because it was a distraction to people sleeping.

Later, one protester questioned an officer for not wearing his mask properly. He responded by jumping into the group’s faces, yelling, “get back.” Other officers proceeded to pull him back. 

After the altercation, protesters dispersed around 7:45 p.m. They said they would continue protesting until a decision is made.