Tue, 26 Sep 2023

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and members of the city's historical commission have been sued by a group which has taken legal action to keep a statue of Christopher Columbus in a park in the south of the city, and to have a wooden box covering it removed.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Friends of Marconi Plaza filed a complaint in court late last month alleging that officials abused the legal process in trying to remove the 146-year-old statue from Marconi Plaza.

The removal followed tense standoffs during racial demonstrations and unrest in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.

George Bochetto, the lead attorney for the group, said, "Frankly, it is shocking what took place here, and it is a shocking disregard for their responsibilities," referring to city officials, as quoted by Reuters.

Columbus, the 15th century explorer, has been embraced by many Italian Americans as a cultural hero and symbol of Philadelphia's Italian heritage.

During the May 2020 protests, some in Philadelphia turned their focus to the Columbus statue, arguing the explorer should not be celebrated.

In response, supporters of the statue began gathering around it and stressed that they would protect it from vandals.

Kenney called for the statue's removal as a matter of public safety, and the city arts panel and historical commission both agreed and a plywood box was erected to cover it.

However, a judge ruled that officials failed to provide evidence that the statue's removal was necessary to protect the public, and reversed the city's decision.

The Friends of Marconi Plaza also filed a lawsuit over the mayor's renaming of the city's Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples' Day, claiming this discriminated against Italian Americans.

A court dismissed the suit and a federal appeals court upheld that dismissal, but Bochetto's firm has appealed to the US Supreme Court.

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