Apparently, someone isn’t a huge fan of Christopher Columbus.
On the day we set aside to celebrate him and his legacy, a vandal or vandals attacked his likeness in Detroit, splashing a Columbus bust with fake blood and taping a hatchet to its forehead.
It happened at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street – just outside of the city’s Renaissance Center. No one but the perpetrator(s) appears to know when the incident occurred. By Monday afternoon, the hatchet had been removed, and the city was to do the final damage cleanup Tuesday afternoon, according to Dan Austin, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan’s office.
The work is a creation of Italian sculptor Augusto Rivalta and was dedicated on Columbus Day in 1910. It’s made of bronze and sits on a base of Travertine marble.
Police found out about the vandalism Monday afternoon after media made inquiries about the incident. Sgt. Cassandra Lewis says their general assignment unit will review camera footage of the area as part of its investigation.
Countless school children grew up being taught that Columbus discovered America in 1492. But over time, many critics have said he wasn’t the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the federal holiday named for him celebrates colonialism and is offensive to Native Americans.
Neither the controversy nor the defacement of the explorer’s memorials is new. There have been similar incidents in the past. A ten-foot statue of Columbus was spray-painted in Hamilton, Ohio, back in July. At that time, Resident John Scarpati, Sr., President of the Mercer County Italian-American Festival Association, said that he recognizes some people do not think highly of Columbus as a historical figure but the explorer’s contribution to world history is significant.
“He crossed the ocean,” Scarpati said. “He almost ran out of food to find the Western world. Give the guy some credit.”
“Italian-American contributions to this country have been very numerous,” added Mayor Kelly Yaede.
Also in July, a 60-year-old Columbus likeness in Buffalo, New York, was spray-painted with the words “rape” and “genocide”.
Whether these are isolated incidents or part of a growing movement to dislodge Columbus from his long-held position in our history books remains to be seen.