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Protesters call for removal of Syracuse's Columbus statue; Walsh forms action group

Resilient Indigenous Action Collective
More than 100 people gathered in Syracuse's Columbus Circle Saturday, calling for the statue to be torn down

The discussion over whether to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Syracuse reached a fever pitch Saturday, as protesters gathered in Columbus Circle calling for the statue to come down. But Mayor Ben Walsh wouldn't commit to removing the statue right away.

The message from protesters from the Resilient Indigenous Action Collective was clear.

"Take it down, take it down," they shouted.

And they want it to happen soon.

"Remove this Columbus statue in two days," one of the organizers of the protest said, to cheers.

About 200 protesters stood beneath the 11-foot statue of Columbus, built in 1934, and depicts him standing over four disembodied heads of Native Americans. They called it a disgusting reminder of white oppression and genocide. 

They’re asking for immediate action from Mayor Ben Walsh. Walsh said he’s created the Columbus Circle Action Group to help determine what to do. 

"It is my intention that through this action group and the planning into this site, we will come a final determination on the presence of that statue and how it fits into a broader vision," Walsh said Friday.

At this point, Walsh says he’s supportive of building an education and learning site that will tell the story of Indigenous people and the horrors of colonialism. He expects the action group will help determine the fate of the statue, and how it fits in a bigger vision of healing century old wounds.

"To tear down the statue is easy. It’s a symbol, like a lot of symbols we’ve been talking about," Walsh said. "Educating and healing the community, that’s the hard work, and that’s what we need to be focused on."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.