Vandals target Columbus statues
Police were warned anarchist group promoted vandalism against monuments
Statues of Christopher Columbus were vandalized in Norwalk, Bridgeport, Middletown and New Haven in what police say may have been an action coordinated by an anarchist group.
On the eve of the holiday honoring the Italian explorer, blood-red paint was thrown across three of the statues. Only Norwalk’s statue escaped the red paint, but it had “FAKE NEWS” emblazoned on its base.
Police in Middletown and New Haven had said they would be stepping up patrols of the monuments as statues nationwide were defaced in advance of the holiday. The red paint on statues in those communities has been cleaned up on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
“This is not graffiti. This is not art. This is pure defacement.” Marylin Osoria, passerby
“I don’t know who thinks they have the right to deface a monument that commemorates something that means a whole lot of different things to a whole lot of different people,” said Middletown Common Councilman Sebastian N. Giuliano, whose father and grandparents came from Melilli, Sicily. “I don’t care what your view of Christopher Columbus is. There were a whole lot of people from Middletown who donated money back in 1991 or 1992 to erect that monument. There are other ways to express your disagreement with the whole idea than to show such a lack of respect for the efforts and sensibilities of your fellow citizens.”
Middletown’s statue of Christopher Columbus at Harbor Park overlooking the Connecticut River was also vandalized last year within a month of Columbus Day. The Columbus Quincentenniel Committee of Middletown, whose members were either Italian immigrants or children of immigrants, established the monument of a Columbus clutching closed his floor-length cape with a scroll in hand on Columbus Day 1996.
The inscription reads “in celebration of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.”
The monument was defaced with the word “discoverer” (of America) crossed out on the front with a black marker and replaced by the word “looter.”
The city’s public works crews cleaned the statue with a special solvent.
In Bridgeport, where a larger-than-life Columbus stands tall in the Seaside Park looking south toward the sea, the red paint was accompanied by the words “Kill the Colonizer” this weekend.
“I noticed right before I parked. I was like ‘What is this red thing on it?’” said Marylin Osoria, of Bridgeport, who came to the park to take a walk.
Then she saw the whitebrushed words “Kill the Colonizer,” painted below the statue.
“This is not graffiti,” said Osario, who considers herself no fan of Columbus. “This is not art. This is pure defacement.”
Police departments around the state and country have been working together after learning that an anarchist group was advocating widespread vandalism against Columbus monuments, Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said.
“We received information that the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement was going to vandalize our statue at Seaside Park and when officers checked it this morning they found red paint had been poured on it,” Perez said.
The organization, part of the far-left movement known as “antifa,” is intent on reigniting this summer’s fierce political debate. They put out a call on social media with the hashtag #destroycolonialism.
In August, while cities in the South roiled over the take-down of Confederate monuments, statues of Christopher Columbus came under fire in the North. One Columbus statue was decapitated with a baseball bat in Yonkers and another was smashed with a sledgehammer by people holding signs reading “Racism: Tear it down.”
Leaders on both sides of the Columbus-as-hero question began taking action. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio convened a commission to review the statue in Columbus Circle while the elders of Columbus Lodge 2143 in Massapequa, N.Y. declared that they would take in and prominently display all Columbus statues that other cities were rejecting.
Fred Bellise, the vice president of the lodge, said that, as of noon on Columbus Day, no one had taken up the offer.
“I’ll see what happens today,” he said.
In Norwalk, the Christopher Columbus monument at Heritage Wall, had “fake news” neatly stenciled in white paint on its base.
Marie Iannazzi, president of the Norwalk chapter of the Sons of Italy, said she was saddened by the action.
“If you go into all of these heroes, everyone had a black mark, but the statue honors them for the accomplishments, not for everything in the past,” Iannazzi said. “Otherwise, I don’t think we’d have any statues. We’re all people, we’re all flawed.”
Ken Hughes, Norwalk’s interim parks director, said the tagging of the statute with graffiti likely occurred Saturday night. Norwalk police are investigating. They received a complaint Sunday afternoon about vandalism of the statue, which is the centerpiece of Thomas C. O’Connor park.
“We were there cleaning up on Thursday,” Hughes said. “We cleaned up the site for the ceremony and it wasn’t on there then so it probably happened Saturday night. We’ll clean it off the first thing (Tuesday) morning.”
The Sons of Italy, Knights of Columbus and St. Ann Club were to hold a Columbus Day ceremony at the statute on Sunday but relocated the event to the St. Ann Club because of the weather.
The statue of Christopher Columbus at the Heritage Wall on West Avenue in Norwalk was found to have the slogan “fake news” stenciled on its base on Sunday.
New York Police Department officers stand alert near the statue of Christopher Columbus at the Columbus Circle in New York on Monday, while a small group of people protest calling for the removal of the statue.