South Philadelphia

Court Orders Cover to Be Removed From Philadelphia Columbus Statue

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A Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania three-judge panel has ruled that Philadelphia must remove a plywood box covering a statue of Christopher Columbus that the city has been trying to remove from a park since the explorer became a focus amid nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice.

Senior Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt issued her ruling Friday in response to an appeal by the City of Philadelphia over the request by the Friends of Marconi Plaza to have the box removed.

"We are very disappointed in the Court’s ruling," Mayor Jim Kenney spokesperson Kevin Lessard said in response to the 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. We are continuing to review the Court’s latest ruling and are working to comply with the Court’s orders, including unboxing.

"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."

Attorney George Bochetto, who represents supporters of the historic statue, planned to hold an event at Marconi Plaza Friday. He praised the court's decision:

“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," he wrote a brief statement. "That we are not a society ruled by cancel culture mobs. That all ethnic groups can proudly protect and honor their diverse heritages."

In Philadelphia, a city with a deep Italian heritage, supporters say they consider Columbus an emblem of that heritage. Mayor 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 during his tenure signed an executive order changing the name of the city’s annual Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.

After the unrest following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Kenney characterized removing the statue as a matter of public safety. The future of the statue off South Broad Street has since remained in flux.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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