NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Christopher Columbus statue in Wooster Square and the sign in front of Christopher Columbus Family Academy in New Haven were vandalized over the weekend.
According to New Haven Police, Saturday evening around 6:30 p.m. officers responded to a protest that began to form around Wooster Square Park.
Police report approximately 20-30 people had gathered around the Columbus statue in the park. During the protest, someone threw red paint onto the statue. Police do not know the identity of this individual. The remnants of the paint could be seen Sunday from the base of the statue all the way up to Columbus’ torso.
Police say the protest dispersed shortly afterward without incident. The city’s Parks Department has been notified to remove the paint.
This was not the first time this statue has been vandalized. In 2017, red paint was thrown onto the statue. It remains there today along with the new paint thrown Saturday.
This all comes after days of back and forth between protesters and neighbors.
One neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous told News 8 Sunday, “I think that the statue and Columbus himself has kind of gotten divorced from what people like to celebrate about Columbus Day and for that reason I think it makes sense to remove the statue itself because I don’t think it’s representative of Italian-American pride.”
Another saying the figure deserves to be preserved in a private institution but says what the figure represents for many others should not be immortalized.
She said, “The marginalized and the mainstream are both unequally educated and miseducated about our history. America is still reckoning with that which is why we have these uprisings, and until our educational system recons with that and until people are able to discuss racial issues honestly amongst themselves then we will always return to these moments of destruction.”
Sunday night, flowers bearing the crest of the fraternal Knights of Columbus were seen at the base of the statue. The note paid tribute to Italian-Americans troubled by the removal of the monument and laments the “racial, political, and anarchical rancor” the author says “outweighs common sense.”
In an email, the New Haven KOC said it’s not sure where the note came from.
But passersby in the park seem to overwhelmingly support the statue’s removal.
“His history with the indigenous people of this country is just shameful,” one said. “Nothing like what we read in our history books.”
“It’s embarrassing that it’s taken this many instances to have something like this come down,” another said. “We’re praising someone that was known for torturing people, raping children, selling them.”
“It’s not a cultural thing. It’s a historical thing,” yet another said.
Park goer Victoria grew up in apartheid South Africa. She is adamant the statue must come down. But instead of destroying it, she said, “It should be preserved somewhere where the terrible history is not lost…We need to remember the history to be able to change it.”
The statue was not the only target over the weekend. Vandals struck the sign for Christopher Columbus Family Academy, too. Red paint – presumably to symbolize the indigenous blood activist claim is on Columbus’s hands – now splashed across the sign.
Crews have already begun to try to clear paint from the sign.
The vandalism happened on Saturday. They had actually put a tarp up to cover it up, but, apparently, whoever did it came back and ripped it off. They definitely want their handiwork to be seen.
There have been conversations in the past about possibly changing the name of Christopher Columbus Family Academy. No doubt those conversations will take on new relevancy now.
Last week, the city Parks Department voted to remove the statue after several other Columbus statues were vandalized in the state and across the country during Black Lives Matter protests.
With the planned removal of the Columbus statue at Wooster Square, police have been providing around-the-clock security coverage of the statue to prevent vandalism until a decision is made on when the figurine will be removed.