For the third time in as many decades, San Jose has grappled with whether to remove a statue of Thomas Fallon. Only this time, it looks like the city will go through with it.
Mayor Sam Liccardo this morning issued a formal recommendation to uproot the bronze likeness of Fallon—who in 1846 planted an American flag in the city’s soil to claim the land from Mexico. The decision comes just days after the city held a public forum on the statue’s fate in which scores of community members criticized it as a glorification of colonialism, white supremacy and genocide.
It also comes months after the statue was vandalized amid a nationwide reckoning over racial justice and broader conversation about who should be memorialized in public art.
Liccardo explained his rationale for removal in a lengthy Medium post and subsequent memo, which he told reporters would be his final comment on the matter in the interest of moving on to address the city’s pressing challenges.
“San Jose has many urgent and critical priorities at this moment: a pandemic, a deep recession, and an affordable housing crisis, among others,” he wrote in the memo released earlier today. “They deserve our undivided attention. They also require the strength and focus of an undivided community.”
Removing the statue has nothing to do with “rewriting” or “erasing” history, he adds.
“History is what it is, and every passing generation reconsiders its interpretation of that record, in light of the evolving values and sensibilities of the age,” Liccardo went on to write. “Statues in museums teach history; statues in prominent outdoor spaces glorify history, often without reflection. We should reconsider what we glorify.”
City officials say it will cost somewhere on the order of $400,000 to remove the statue.
The Latino Leadership Alliance (LLA), of which Councilman Raul Peralez is a member, applauded the mayor’s recommendation.
In a statement shared with San Jose Inside, the LLA said it “stands with the community on this issue and supports the removal of this statue.”
“Representation matters, particularly with public art that is seen by all every day,” the group wrote. “There is a responsibility to the community to ensure that the work is inclusive. The city has a real opportunity here to do right by its residents.”
“We hope it will.”
Click here to read the mayor’s memo in its entirety.