A Democratic city councilwoman in Providence, Rhode Island, expressed her support this week for the vandalism of a statue of famed explorer Christopher Columbus.
The vandalism appears to have occurred late Sunday or in the early hours of the morning on Monday, which was Columbus Day.
In recent years, activists have set their sights on the federal holiday, which celebrates a man who they claim ushered in the age of colonialism in the Americas and the dying out of native peoples.
In protest, some localities now celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day” instead.
Photos revealed that one or more vandals had thrown red paint on a statue of Columbus in Providence.
A sign had been tied around the statue with a chain that read, “Stop Celebrating Genocide,” according to WJAR.
Went to see if sign I saw last night was removed from Columbus in Elmwood – discovered in this condition: pic.twitter.com/2PsxTDFym1
— Bill Bartholomew (@BillBartholomew) October 14, 2019
A public works crew power-washed the paint off the statue while police searched for a suspect.
But according to Providence City Councilwoman Katherine Kerwin, a Democrat who has represented the city’s 12th ward since January, whoever vandalized the statue did nothing wrong.
Kerwin retweeted a Monday post that praised the act of vandalism.
She was asked Wednesday by WPRO radio host Gene Valicenti whether she supported the vandalism.
“You know, I do,” Kerwin replied. “And I think the statue should be removed.”
“I think that healthy civil disobedience is really good for society,” she added.
Kerwin went on to note that she stands with those who are “hurt” by Rhode Island’s failure to celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day.”
“I don’t know who did that, but obviously they feel really strongly that what Rhode Island is continuing to do and what Providence is continuing to do by not joining many states that have decided to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day is hurtful, and it’s damaging, and you know, I stand with them,” Kerwin said.
“I don’t know who did it, but they created a really healthy dialogue in Providence.”
“When I saw it, it was disheartening,” a local resident told WJAR. “I have my opinion, you have your opinion, but to desecrate a statue, it doesn’t prove anything. It doesn’t gain anything positive out of that.”
Darrell Waldron, who serves as executive director of the Rhode Island Indian Council, understands why someone would vandalize the statue, but still said he doesn’t support the act.
“I think that person may be frustrated that people aren’t really telling the truth, you know,” Waldron said. “I mean, I’ve been in my job for about 35 years and I have heard some very personal stories about history.”
Executive Director of RI Indian Council, Darrell Waldron, looking at Christopher Columbus statue vandalism in Providence. Waldron says he can understand why someone acted out this way on behalf of Native Americans, but he doesn’t condone this @NBC10 pic.twitter.com/0YB71BsM35
— Jared Pelletier (@NBC10_Jared) October 14, 2019
Kerwin, meanwhile, was asked whether vandalizing public property is a legitimate response to other grievances, like taxpayer money being wasted.
“Merely damaging city property just for the sake of it is very different than damaging it in the name of very, very important issues that we’re facing,” she replied, citing “white supremacy” as one of those issues.
“It needs to be for a larger social issue.”
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