Lovers of history just won big in Pennsylvania, where a court ruled on Friday that a Christopher Columbus statue in Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza that’s been covered up ever since the violet Black Lives Matter riots of 2020 must now be uncovered.
During the violent riots two years ago, a plywood box was placed around the statue, and then the city’s Historical Commission voted to remove the statue altogether, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
However, rather than take it on the chin, a local Italian American group known as the Friends of Marconi Plaza began fighting back in the courts.
In 2021, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County ruled in favor of the group, thus stopping the statue from being removed.
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld last year’s decision but also ordered the plywood box to be removed.
“The order is affirmed insofar as it directs the City of Philadelphia to remove the plywood structure covering the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza” @FOX29philly pic.twitter.com/p5XoIfdVUZ
— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) December 9, 2022
In addition, the Commonwealth Court ordered that a new, transparent box be built around the statue. This way lovers of history can still enjoy the statue, but the statue will remain protected from left-wing extremists.
Friends of Marconi Plaza were pleased by the ruling.
“As a proud Citizen of Philadelphia, I am delighted that both Judge Patrick of the Court of Common Pleas and the Judges of the Commonwealth Court have boldly reaffirmed that the rule of law still matters. That we are not a society ruled by cancel culture mobs. That all ethnic groups can proudly protect and honor their diverse heritages,” the group’s lawyer, George Bochetto, said in a statement, according to station WCAU.
The city, meanwhile, is not so happy.
“We are very disappointed in the Court’s ruling. We continue to believe that the Christopher Columbus statue, which has been a source of controversy in Philadelphia, should be removed from its current position at Marconi Plaza,” a spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, told the Inquirer.
However, the spokesperson did pledge to “respect” the decision.
“While we will respect this decision, we will also continue to explore our options for a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture while respecting the histories and circumstances of everyone’s different backgrounds,” they said.
As previously reported, the statue — among many statues across the states — came under attack during the violent BLM riots of 2020.
Local Italians tried, for their part, to protect the statue as much as possible.
SOME OF OURS
Old school Italian-Americans gather in front of a Christopher Columbus statue in Philadelphia to protect it from communists BLM vandals & Antifa
Some commie scum bag has a problem with it but is quickly asked to leave. pic.twitter.com/AherS5Trij
— ’ (@UncleSamsTribe) June 16, 2020
NOW: #Philadelphia police are in Marconi Plaza where a handful of South Philadelphia residents are standing in front of Columbus statue. At least two men we’ve seen is holding a rifle.@6abc pic.twitter.com/T9vsnTjXxa
— George Solis (@GeorgeSolis) June 14, 2020
At the time, Kenney responded by covering the statue with the aforementioned plywood box but also initiating the effort to remove the statue altogether.
“Like many communities across the country, Philadelphia is in the midst of a much-needed reckoning about the legacy of systemic racism and oppression in this country and around the world,” he said at the time in a statement.
“Part of that reckoning requires reexamining what historical figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces. In recent weeks, clashes between individuals who support the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated—creating a concerning public safety situation that cannot be allowed to continue,” he added.
The city’s then-public art director, Margot Berg, concurred.
“Philadelphia’s public art should reflect the people and spirit of our city without dividing us as a community,” she said.
“As we’ve seen demonstrated here and across the country, many of the individuals that are celebrated in bronze and stone are a point of pride to some, while causing great pain for others whose ancestors were impacted by their actions and whose communities still suffer under systems of oppression. While it may seem counterintuitive, the reality is that one aspect of managing a public art collection is the occasional removal of works from public view,” she added.
Below is a photo of how the statue looks pre-box-removal:
It’s painted green, white, and yellow for a reason.
“A statue of Christopher Columbus in Philadelphia remains hidden by a plywood box while its fate is decided in the courts, but the box has now been painted with the colors of the Italian flag,” The Bradford Era reported in October.
“City officials told the news station KYW that they painted the box covering the 146-year-old statue in south Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza with green, white and red stripes at the request of Councilmember Mark Squilla, who represents the district,” the paper added.
Squilla is, amazingly enough, a Democrat himself. Albeit an Italian Democrat with an unexpected appreciation for history.
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