Newport, RI – An online petition is calling for the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue that is located at the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue in Newport.
The petition, Removal of the Columbus statue in Newport, on Change.org asks people “to consider the realities we were not taught in school about the unimaginably violent atrocities this man wrought on Native peoples. The reality that the land we now call home was stolen. This illustrates the irony in holding on to the symbol of Columbus as someone to honor and immortalize”.
Sarak Berman started the petition to the City of Newport and writes, “Considering this, why in the world would this man be celebrated? Why would we honor him with a parade and a statue? For my Southern Italian American relatives, if knowing about the true history of Christopher Columbus doesn’t convince you that we should do away with the statue and parade, perhaps looking deeper into how this man became a cultural hero for us Italians will?”
Newport’s 15-foot tall statue of Columbus has stood tall looking over the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue since 1953. The 1.5 life size bronze statue, showing Christopher Columbus holding an Earth globe in his right hand and his left-hand resting on an anchor, was made possible by a Columbus Monument Committee for “the purpose to celebrate and honor the Italian heritage in the community”.
Several cities, including Providence just this week, have removed statues of Christopher Columbus, as well as Confederate-era and other controversial figures, from their cityscapes.
Many see statues of Columbus as a symbol of hate or racism. More recent views and protests of Columbus have been critical of his colonization and mistreatment of natives during his lifetime, many citing his participation in the slave trade.
The creator of Newport’s monument, Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli, provides the following brief history on its website;
“THE COMMITTEE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF A MONUMENT TO CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AS A GIFT OF THE ITALIAN COMMUNITY OF NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, TO ITS OWN TOWN WAS FORMED IN 1932. THE PROJECT AND THE COLLECTION OF FUNDS TOOK A LONG TIME, SO THAT IT WAS ONLY IN 1953 THAT THE FONDERIA MARINELLI WAS ABLE TO SEND A SMALL-SCALE MODEL MADE BY THE SCULPTOR GIOVANNI CAPPELLETTI. AFTER ITS APPROVAL, THE ARTIST REALIZED THE FULL-SIZE MODEL, WHICH WAS CAST BY THE FOUNDRY AND SENT TO THE USA”.
Those signing the petition see Columbus as a “deeply offensive symbol of hate, trauma, and injustice, especially for indigenous peoples”.
“It’s time to take the statue down and shift Columbus Day and the parade to celebrate and honor the Indigenous people who have suffered for far too long. We Italian Americans can easily find a more accurate and rightful hero,” Berkman writes in the petition.
At the time we published this story, the petition had been signed by nearly 100 people. Read the full petition here.