Petition Calls for Removal of Christopher Columbus Monument at Penn’s Landing
Ah, Columbus Day. It’s an occasion that brings with it two guaranteed things: annoying observances (I had three checks to deposit this morning and I got all my trash together before realizing that it wouldn’t be picked up) and calls to abolish the holiday and everything associated with it. Case in point: a Change.org petition to get rid of the Christopher Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing.
I can’t remember the last time that a Change.org petition directly caused any, you know, change, but I fully support the idea behind this particular petition.
Here’s what’s engraved on the Christopher Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing:
COLUMBUS, INTREPID NAVIGATOR, WITH A SENSE OF THE SEA UNPARALLELED BEFORE OR AFTER HIM… AN HONORED HERO OF HISTORY. HIS KEEN INTELLECT, ABIDING FAITH, AND UNDAUNTED PERSISTENCE MADE HIM A GIANT AMONG MEN OF THIS MILLENNIUM.
Hmmm. Somehow they left out EVIL MONSTER.
Listen, when I was in grammar school back in the 1970s and early 1980s, I’m pretty sure that my teachers taught me that Christopher Columbus was a swell guy, a courageous explorer who “sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two.”
But these days, we know that Columbus was a bad dude. And we knew it back in 1992, when the monument was erected, using funds raised by big names like Vincent Fumo, Edward Rendell, Anna Verna, Walter D’Alessio, Nicholas DeBenedictis, G. Fred DiBona, and Charles Pizzi. Christopher Columbus stole. Christopher Columbus raped. And Christopher Columbus murdered. Oh, and he would cut off the hands of any indigenous person over the age of 14 who didn’t pay him their gold tax. A bona fide role model!
There’s no doubt that Columbus had some major accomplishments. After all, this is a guy who crossed the treacherous Atlantic Ocean eight times in the 15th Century. But if conquering major ground is all that’s required to get a monument — and it’s such an ugly monument at that! — we might as well just build one for Adolf Hitler, who managed to seize most of Europe. Christopher Columbus was just a guy with a few wooden boats and a penchant for bloodshed.
The petition in question was started by a South Philadelphia woman, and it urges Mayor Michael Nutter to do the right thing. But it turns out that the goodly mayor doesn’t really have anything to do with the monument, which is owned, maintained, and under the custodianship of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
“There have been many objections to the monument, including when it was being built,” says DRWC spokesperson Jodie Milkman. “And that same year, they took part of Delaware Avenue and renamed it Columbus Boulevard. There were objections to that, too, but it all moved forward.”
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