KEY POINTS

  • Virginia protesters removed a statue of Christopher Columbus during protests
  • Graffiti on the pedestal said “Columbus Represented Genocide”
  • There are plans to remove another controversial statue in Virginia

Protesters in Richmond, Virginia, toppled a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it into a lake Tuesday night (June 5).

Protesters reportedly surrounded the 8-foot statue, which was already defaced with graffiti, and removed it from its pedestal to chants of “tear it down.”

The statue was reportedly then burned by protesters before being dragged 200 feet away from its original spot and thrown into the lake at Byrd Park.

Protesters tore down the statue less than two hours after they gathered at the park and chanted for its removal.

The now-empty pedestal was graffitied and covered with a sign that says, “Columbus Represents Genocide.”

Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in the late 15th Century sparked European colonization efforts in the continents and has made him a symbol of conquest and violence to Native Americans.

In a speech to protesters, activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise talked about the struggles of Native Americans and African-Americans.

“We have to start where it all began. We have to start with the people who first stood on this land,” Higgs-Wise said.

The toppling of the Columbus statue followed an injunction issued by a Richmond judge that blocked  Virginia Governor Ralph Northam from removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Lee’s statue has become a flashpoint in Virginia for protests about the death of George Floyd, a black man who was caught on video pleading with police officers who pinned him down to the ground by kneeling on his neck.

The statue is one of five Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue and has been heavily graffitied as protests in Richmond continued.

Northam’s decision to remove the Lee statue came after nearly a week of protests demanding justice and police reform following Floyd’s death and mounting pressure from the Virginia Legislature.

The statue of a slave trader was also toppled by protesters in the United Kingdom, where demonstrators pulled down the 18-foot bronze monument to Edward Colston.

Protesters also defaced a monument to World War II leader Winston Churchill during the protests, which were mostly peaceful.

The Colston statue was also thrown into the harbor of the English city of Bristol after being removed.