LANCASTER, Pa. — Hundreds of years of American history are bubbling to the surface in the Red Rose City. Lancaster City Council members unanimously approved a resolution to remove a Christopher Columbus bust.
The statue sits on county-owned property on Lenox Lane next to the County Courthouse. Any decision to remove the statue is ultimately up to county commissioners. However, that is not stopping city council members from taking a stance on the issue.
Last month, protesters vandalized the bronze statue with spray paint. City Council President Ismail Smith Wade-El said the life of Christopher Columbus is not in line with the values of the city.
“As a council, we felt it was important that the people we glorify and give spaces of honor within the limits of the city of Lancaster are people that inspire us to greater heights. Not to sort of glorify or ceremonialize people whose behavior we would now call reprehensible," he said.
Columbus and his brothers ruled the initial Spanish colony in present-day Haiti with an iron fist, according to the council’s June 23 resolution, “forcing the indigenous population into slavery and torturing and parading through the streets the dismembered bodies of those who dared to revolt.”
Calls to remove Columbus monuments are spanning the country. In Baltimore, protesters toppled a Columbus statute and threw it into the Inner Harbor.
However, statues of Columbus are symbolic for the culture of Italian-Americans, who regard the 15th century explorer as a point of pride.
“Columbus was just an inspiration to Italian-Americans who came here. They traveled across the ocean. They came here and made it onto a new voyage. They just related to Columbus. In my little bit of research, that’s how he became a hero to the Italian community,” said Bill Martin, chairman of The Associated Italian American Charities of Maryland.
Martin said he and other members of the Italian-American community talked with city officials in Baltimore about the organization’s willingness to peacefully remove the Columbus statue prior to the protests.
“Let’s communicate. Let’s try to help each other. We can do that,” Martin said.
There is no indication Lancaster County Commissioners will take up the issue for a vote. Controversy surrounding the statue previously came up in 2017. At the time, county commissioners unanimously voted for the statue to stay.
Republican Commissioner Josh Parsons said his position remains the same, telling FOX43 “I have not heard a satisfactory reason as to why the County would take it down.”
For city council members, the conversation will continue beyond Columbus. Smith Wade-El believes it is important to revisit the histories of those that these statues represent.
“If our country is anything, it is a story that we tell ourselves about how we came together, which is why it is so important that these names, these narratives, these stories be revisited and, frankly, be bent to the will of a people and a country that is not the same as it was when these statues were erected,” said Smith Wade-El.