San Jose Considers Removing Columbus Statue from City Hall

A Christopher Columbus statue that’s been the subject of repeated vandalism and an impassioned campaign to oust it from San Jose City Hall may finally find a new home after this week.

The City Council on Tuesday will vote on whether to fork out $12,000 to remove the 6,000-pound marble monument, which activists have long decried as a symbol of genocide and colonialism.

Public Works Director Barry Ng will present the council with four options. The city can leave the statue in place. It can crate it up and store it in a service yard until the offending sculpture is eventually re-gifted. It can install the piece in the Bank of Italy building at History Park. Or, it can place the statue behind a security checkpoint at the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The monument, which was donated to the city in 1958 by the San Jose Civic Club and the Italo-American Societies of San Jose, has been defaced multiple times. In 2001, someone shattered parts of the statue’s legs, arms and torso with a sledgehammer. More recently, this past September, someone smeared the offending fixture with red and black ink.

That last incident prompted the city to install a curtain behind the statue to block the rear view from the exterior window. A week later, in mid-October, police and security guards had to disband a group of protesters who marched into the lobby and confronted city staffers and passers-by about the Columbus memorial.

In response to mounting pressure to remove the statue, San Jose State University convened a panel discussion that drew about 50 attendees—virtually all of them opposed to having Columbus memorialized in such a prominent public location. Meanwhile, Ng’s staff met with a representative of the city’s Italian-American community to talk about possible relocation sites, which led to the short list up for discussion this Tuesday.

At every hearing on the statue in recent months, virtually every person who spoke during the public comment section voiced disapproval of the statue. In a memo penned back in September, downtown Councilman Raul Peralez said the monument is unsuited to its current location.

“The history of Christopher Columbus has long been a controversial discussion for many Americans, especially Native Americans, who are the original inhabitants of the Americas,” he wrote. “Subsequently, the Christopher Columbus statue at City Hall has also been a controversial topic. As people walk into City Hall, a public place where they come to receive resources and support, having the statue as a main focal point in our lobby can provide some individuals with a feeling of oppression and frustration thus making them feel unwelcomed and discouraged to come to City Hall.”

The Brown Berets—a Chicano activist organization—garnered more than 2,000 signatures in a petition to remove the Columbus statue. The group plans to stage protests at City Hall tonight and on Tuesday afternoon to urge officials to relocate the monument.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for January 30, 2018:

  • San Jose is re-evaluating its workers’ comp programs after failing a crucial state audit in 2016 and as it closes in on a follow-up review at the end of this year. If it fails yet another audit, the city could be on the hook for some costly penalties—up to and including San Jose losing its ability to self-insure for workers’ compensation claims. If that happens, San Jose would need to buy insurance from a private company, which would likely be far more expensive for a program that already sees nearly $27 million in claim costs and $3.7 million in admin costs. “In addition to claims and administration, an insurer would include profits and overhead in the premium cost and insure against the risk of future claims and costs,” Deputy City Manager Julie Edmond-Mares wrote in a memo. “This easily could raise costs to more than $35 million a year.”
  • The city is still trying to get its municipal clean energy program off the ground. Though the California Public Utilities Commission already authorized San Jose Clean Energy, the official launch date may get pushed back to this summer.
  • San Jose’s designated lobbyist will present a report on the city’s legislative guiding principals for the year ahead. Chief among the priorities is to protect local control, followed by supporting policies that ensure the region’s competitiveness through economic development, increasing local funding and building more affordable housing.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > which activists have long decried as a symbol of genocide and colonialism.

    QUESTION: If “activists” decry the statue as a symbol of genocide and colonialism, does that mean that it IS a symbol of genocide and colonialism?

  2. I understand that San Jose has a strong and proud Italian heritage community. Indeed, I go past Little Italy on the Guadalupe River Trail on my runs. However, I don’t believe that the statue has a place in San Jose. I’m up for Option 2, which is crate it then regift it.

    The statue of Fremont near Julian and highway 87 should also experience the same fate, for many of the same reasons. These explorers were many times early exploiters.

    • > However, I don’t believe that the statue has a place in San Jose.

      So, you are now the official San Jose cultural maven and historian?

      Could we see your papers, please?

      Human history is an ENDLESS parade of stronger tribes pushing out, absorbing, or massacring weaker tribes.

      If San Jose wants to go down the path of empowering “activist groups” to pass judgement on who is and who isn’t an acceptable historical cultural figure for the City of Saint Joseph, there will be no statues and no history.

      You tear down my statues, and my mobs will tear down your statues.

      This is WAR! Identity politics war.

      If Sam Liccardo had an ounce of leadership, he would put in end to this civil war right now.

      But I have explained the problem by putting Sam Liccardo and “leadership” together in the same sentence.

  3. Columbus’s statue a victim of progressive white hate and revisionist history. This is the kind of stuff the Taliban and ISIS do not Americans. What would this place look like today had it not been for this man’s quest to find a shortcut to China?
    New York? Chicago? LA? SF? Detroit? Mexico City? No it would look like Haiti or something worse.

    News Flash Mexico 2018, they are still cutting out hearts and cutting off heads. But your right the statue should be sent to a place of honor and not be left is such a disgusting place as city hall San Jose. Maybe you should change the name of the town to Saitan Jose!

  4. I am proud of my Italian heritage and insist the statue be moved. Columbus was no hero. He sought fortune and fame, his journeys paid for by Spain’s aristocracy in the hopes he would bring them more. Read the history books and you will find documents confirming he condoned rape and pillage along the way.

  5. Apparently, “native americans” were not the first “indigenous” people here in North America. Evidence is mounting that they pushed out a previous population of European-centric origin:

    The Smithsonian Magazine:
    The Very First Americans May Have Had European Roots
    Some early Americans came not from Asia, it seems, but by way of Europe

    The Washington Post:
    Radical theory of first Americans places Stone Age Europeans in Delmarva 20,000 years ago

    The National Geographic:
    Controversy erupted after skeletal remains were found in Kennewick, Washington, in 1996. This skeleton, estimated to be 9,000 years old, had a long cranium and narrow face—features typical of people from Europe, the Near East or India—rather than the wide cheekbones and rounder skull of an American Indian.
    Ancient DNA reveals that the ancestors of modern-day Native Americans had European roots. The discovery sheds new light on European prehistory and also solves old mysteries concerning the colonisation of America.

  6. was there no rape/ murder/ enslavement among the “New World” groups? i.e., Aztecs, Inca’s? when Malcom X took his first Haj to Mecca he was astounded to find blond, blue eyed Muslims. How could this be? Turns out in the Middle Ages when the various barbarian groups were sweeping through what is now Eastern Europe grabbing up women (see the word Slav) and children and selling them to African Kings – long before old Chris Columbus was even born.

    so what does that tell us? History is a meal always consumed in small portions and thus never really grasped.
    But I understand people like to spout off.

  7. When Columbus landed on the North American continent he brought with him the faith, language, and DNA of the Spanish people. Because history provides no cause to suspect these powerfully transformative influences would’ve otherwise made their way across the Atlantic, it would be contradictory and unreasonable to abhor Columbus as an historical figure without also abhorring his unique contributions to the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, if Councilman Raul Peralez believes Columbus (and/or the statue of him) is offensive, it would be hypocritical of him to deny the offensiveness of both Catholicism and the Spanish language, as well as his own Spanish DNA and surname.

    As much I appreciate the Columbus statue, I’m flexible enough to go along with its removal if this one racially-motivated act, carried to its logical end, results in ridding this city of everything and everyone directly-connected to Christopher Columbus, including the Brown Berets and Councilman Raul Peralez (all of whom, due to an obviously inferior mix of Spanish DNA, are dumb enough to hate their own heredity).

  8. More tyranny of the minority. 2,000 signed a petition. 50 showed up to a meeting. SJ has one million residents. When will this PC BS of kow-towing to a vocal few end?

    • Goodbye Columbus ! Great title for a movie about two mismatched young Jewish lovers. Fun Fact: Columbus never came within a 1,000 miles of Columbus,Ohio (America’s 14th most populous city). Too bad they already have a statue of Columbus,otherwise we could have traded ours for it’s weight in White Castle hamburgers.

  9. I’m shocked!, Shocked!!! that Mr. Peralez would be so insensitive to Columbus. Columbus was just another undocumented immigrant coming to the New World to seek a better life.

    As a “sanctuary city”, San Jose should be celebrating Columbus and his refusal to accept and assimilate into the ways of the indigenous people he found here when he arrived. Columbus did what every undocumented immigrant is supposed to do, he came here and forced his culture and belief system on the indigenous people, subverting and perverting their native culture as surely as those modern day “Holy Anointed Undocumenteds” and “Sacred Dreamers” do today.

    Don’t take down the statue of Columbus. Instead, give it it’s own re-named holiday “Columbus de Mayo”. Drape the statue of Columbus in the Holy Vestments of a Mexican flag, and top it with a rainbow wig and no one would ever dare touch it, or even criticize it.

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