Van­dals tar­get Colum­bus stat­ues

Po­lice were warned an­ar­chist group pro­moted van­dal­ism against mon­u­ments

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Koch, Cedar At­tana­sio and Cas­san­dra Day

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.

Alex von Kley­dorff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

Jewl Sa­mad/ AFP/Getty Images

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.

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