On Sunday, the Facebook page North Beach News published photos of San Francisco’s Christopher Columbus monument, located next to Coit Tower, covered in red paint—an act of protest that coincided with the neighborhood’s Italian Heritage Parade and the observation of Columbus Day.
The unidentified vandals also spray painted the statue’s base, declaring, “Kill all colonizers” and “Destroy all monuments of genocide.”
CBS SF reported Sunday morning that city workers were already scrubbing the statue to remove the paint.
A 2007 report by the San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission notes that the 12-foot statue, installed by the Delaware-based Columbus Monument Committee in 1957, is meant to “celebrate the contributions of Italian Americans and their heritage,” hence its presence in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill area.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Italian Americans embraced Columbus as a hero figure to combat anti-Italian sentiment.
By identifying with a historical figure already considered synonymous with American history, immigrants and the descendants of immigrants could celebrate their Italian heritage while asserting their Americanness at the same time.
But that same, the 2007 report also points out that odes to Columbus are “an insulting gesture” for many Native Americans and that “for millions, 1492 marked the beginning of the implementation of policies designed to systematically exterminate Native American people and their cultures.”
To no avail, various private groups and public organizations have suggested that City Hall remove the Columbus statue and rename nearby Columbus Avenue.
While the federal government still designates the second Monday of October Columbus Day, many people, cities, and institutions regard today as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (Both Google and Apple calendars note both holidays.)
In 1994, organizers of the city’s Columbus Day Parade changed the name to the Italian Heritage Parade to better “celebrate the accomplishments and culture of all Italians and Italian-Americans.”
This isn’t the first time the Columbus edifice has faced such treatment; splashing red paint against images of the Italian explorer is a common means of protest in many American cities.