‘I expected that result’: Waterbury activist not surprised by vote to keep beheaded Columbus statue in front of city hall

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — As if there weren’t enough to entice people in the Brass City to vote on Election Day, they also had that controversial, headless statue to deal with.

The Christopher Columbus statue, without its head since July 4, will continue to stand in front of Waterbury City Hall, despite protests over the summer to have it removed.

Community activist, Athena Wagner, was a vocal presence at several of those protests. She said Christopher Columbus was racist and killed many Native Americans.

Waterbury resident, Rockman Rainbow — a Native American — agrees. He said to him, that the Christopher Columbus statue is a “symbol of hate.”

“I was not surprised one bit,” Wagner said of the vote. “I expected that result. It was strategic and purposefully put on the ballot as a question to give the perception that all is fair in voting. However, historically, Waterbury is known for low voter turnout amongst the Black community.”

The Greater Waterbury NAACP launched an effort to get more African Americans to the polls to vote for all of the election races and for the Christopher Columbus statue referendum.

“We made over 1,400 phone calls to people in the community to remind them to vote and also bring their attention to the question on the referendum,” said Ginnie-Rae Clay, the local NAACP president.

Waterbury’s Italian-American community donated the statue to the city in the 80s as a gift, symbolizing Waterbury’s welcoming nature to many immigrant groups.

“We did it with all good intention,” said Dr. Robert Porzia, a member of the original donation committee.

Clay said this was a non-binding referendum and the mayor will have the final say.

Even though hers was on the losing side of this effort, for now, she also said they won because more than 11,000 people voted to remove the statue.

“It definitely sends a signal that folks want to have a conversation,” said Clay.

She, and others, hope to have that conversation with the mayor.

According to the Republican-American newspaper, 22,957 people voted on the referendum with 59% of those votes for the statue to stay in front of city hall.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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