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San Antonio Workers Remove Statue of Christopher Columbus From Downtown Park

The Christopher Columbus statue in a downtown park came down for the first time in 63 years, and it may not be going back up. Workers detached the statue from its pedestal, and a forklift removed it. It was a landmark victory for every critic of the colonialism and racism they said Columbus symbolized.

The Christopher Columbus Italian Society requested that the city remove and return the statue to them after more than a decade of vandalism and public cries to remove it.

About a dozen police officers were in the park, and they chatted with members of the Columbus society and workers. Barricades were erected around the statue, and it was wrapped in yellow straps.

Three indigenous women stood at a safe distance to watch. They burned sage, they explained, to cleanse the area. They called for a period of healing in the community.

Onlookers snapped photos as forklift picked up the statue by the yellow straps and was carefully hoisted down to the pavement. Someone yelled, "There it goes!"

The statue's removal came days after a peaceful anti-Columbus demonstration at the statue turned tense when armed militia groups turned up, purportedly to protect the statue, though police and barricades were already in place.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said Wednesday morning there was no other side to the issue of removing the statue -- local indigenous groups and the Columbus society both wanted the statue removed in favor of a less controversial way of honoring local Italian heritage.

Paolo Cristadoro, a board member for the organization, has been a member of the society for about 40 years. He said he was sad to see the statue get taken down, but shifting social perspectives, especially over the past month, demonstrated to him that what some people value as part of their history, others find hurtful.

He said after the damage from the vandalism is repaired, the society will take back the statue. No formal plans have been made about what exactly will be done with it.

Jolene Almendarez can be reached at JoleneAlmendarez@gmail.com and on Twitter at @jalmendarez57.

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Jolene Almendarez can be reached at jolenealmendarez@gmail.com.