The contentious monument was torn down by a group of around 40 activists in 20 minutes or so following three days of protests around the federal holiday. Columbus Day has long been a source of controversy in the US, with many arguing that celebrating the explorer glorifies colonialism. Some states, including New Mexico, have ditched the holiday, observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
— Kyle Land (@kyleoftheland) October 12, 2020
Police were reportedly absent at the time the monument was torn down, having conducted a tactical retreat after officers were assaulted, before returning in greater numbers with reinforcements from New Mexico State Police and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.
Two men were arrested in connection with the toppling of the monument: Sean Sunderland, 24, was charged with resisting and criminal trespass while Dylan Wrobel, 27, charged with battery on a peace officer and resisting an officer.
Mayor Alan Webber decried the actions of the protesters, saying the “wanton destruction of the Obelisk was completely unacceptable. That’s not how we do things in Santa Fe.”
“There is no place for people taking the law into their own hands. There is no place for people destroying historic monuments on their own,” Webber added.
What is happening people.. this is not peaceful; all involved should be arrested…
I really think people have lost their minds!
— Lisa Kempski (@KempskiLisa) October 12, 2020
It’s all a pantomime, people get to demonstrate, pull stuff down, like the angry mob, and nothing much changes.
— grant Robertson (@grantart6) October 12, 2020
Yay! This will no doubt end racism and oppression
— XXII Letter (@XXIILetter) October 12, 2020
City workers had erected barriers around the monument, erected in 1866 to honor Civil War-era soldiers, to protect it, but protesters still managed to lasso it with a rope and tear it down.
Webber had previously ordered the obelisk removed but it was too heavy, so only the offending plaque which bore an inscription referencing the Pueblo people as ‘Savage Indians’, was taken away.
The incident is the latest such removal of statues from bygone eras seen by social justice movements as oppressive. Numerous statues of slave owners and conquerors have been torn down across the world in recent months amid the groundswell of racial justice marches which began in the US with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May.
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