San Jose officials announced Wednesday that Christopher Columbus will likely spend one last holiday season at City Hall. After much debate and commentary from the public, the statue celebrating the Italian explorer—who many see as an idol of genocide—has yet to be relocated.
On Sept. 13, a memo for the relocation of the statue was brought to the attention of the City Council. The hope was to remove the statue and position it to a more appropriate location, but three months later the statue has still yet to find a new home. During an Oct. 12 protest, city staff reported, members of the community who oppose the statue “aggressively antagonized” visitors and City Hall staff. Security and police officers were reportedly required to help disperse the protesters.
The Civic Club and the Italo-American Societies of San Jose gifted the Columbus statue to the city in 1958. A potential future home for the marble statue is the Italian Cultural Center and Museum in Little Italy. Other locations under consideration include Mineta San Jose International Airport and History Park at Kelley Park. Relocation is more than just finding another home, though. The nine foot tall, 6,000-pound statue will cost approximately $10,000 to move and it will need a special crate for transportation. Dismantling, moving and reassembling the statue will take two days, staff reports.
Members of the community have been outspoken about the statue, describing it as a representation of genocide, murder and oppression. On March 8, 2001, a member of the public vandalized the statue with a sledgehammer, shattering sections of the legs, arm, hand and torso of the statue.
A week after the Sept. 13, 2017 memo from Councilmember Raul Peralez, a woman vandalized the statue with red and black ink. Since then, a curtain has been installed behind the statue so it cannot be seen from outside the building.
The Rules Committee was supposed to make a recommendation on the matter to go to council, but the decision once again punted to a later date. Staff cited the holidays and the sensitive topic of relocation as reasons for the delay.The issue will be taken back up in January.