PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CNN) — Philadelphia took another step towards removing a statue of Christopher Columbus on Friday when the city’s historical commission voted 10-2 in favor of removal.
The final decision for removing the statue from Marconi Plaza rests with the Philadelphia Art Commission, which is tentatively scheduled to take up the matter on August 12, Lauren Cox, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney, told CNN.
“This week’s meetings were an important opportunity for members of the public to share their opinions about the future of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Marconi Plaza,” Cox said in a statement. “The administration believes we made a strong case for the relocation of the statue and will await the final decision of the Art Commission.”
The commission heard hours of testimony from the public, the majority of whom wanted the 144-year-old statue to stay, according to CNN affiliate KYW. But City Public Arts Director Margot Bert said that preliminary findings from an online survey showed that 80% were in favor of removal, KYW reported.
Discussions over removing the statue come amid a nationwide reckoning over race and a debate over the display of certain statues, like those representing figures from the Confederacy.
In the case of Columbus, “scholars and historians have uncovered firsthand documentation establishing his arrival in the Americas also marked the beginning of the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people,” an earlier statement from the mayor’s office explained, while some view him as a symbol of Italian contributions to US history.
The statue in Marconi Plaza has become a flashpoint for protesters, leading to “clashes” between people who want the statue to stay and others who would like to see it removed, the statement said, calling it a “concerning public safety situation.”
Last month the city boxed the statue in with wood to protect it. And groups of armed men stood guard at the statue after it was defaced, CNN affiliate WCAU reported.
“The City is committed to finding a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture, while respecting the histories and circumstances of others that come from different backgrounds,” the statement from the mayor’s office said.
Philadelphia is not alone in dealing with public anger over statues of Columbus. In several cases, statues have been pulled to the ground, beheaded or thrown into a lake.
Most recently, a statue of Columbus was removed from Chicago’s Grant Park Friday morning after Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered its removal. That statue was also the scene of a confrontation, this time between Chicago police and protesters, that left several officers injured.
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