PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park has been vandalized.
The statue was sprayed with red paint and multiple phrases including “Murder.”
Columbus statues have now attracted attention nationwide, as some protesters in other cities have taken action into their own hands to remove or destroy statues of the Italian explorer.
For many Italian Americans, says Guy Costa, Christopher Columbus has been a powerful symbol.
Costa, who has chaired Columbus Day Parades in Pittsburgh, says his grandparents came here from Italy.
“Christopher Columbus symbolized hope for those people leaving Italy to come to America to have a better life,” Costa told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.
The Pittsburgh statue in Schenley Park, owned by the City and erected in 1958, was designed by the sculptor Frank Vittor, who also designed the Honus Wagner statue at PNC Park.
But to some, Columbus is not the great explorer of the Americas.
“He enslaved native populations, he brought European diseases, he killed a lot of people. He’s really not a good guy, and I don’t think we should glorify him as we do today,” says Finn Murphy of Highland Park.
Murphy has organized an on-line petition drive to ask the city to remove the statue.
“I thought I was going to get a cool 15 signatures, and we’re almost at a thousand,” Murphy said. “It’s crazy. It really shows how much people care about this.”
“A lot of young folks don’t know what the history was 530 years ago,” says Costa.
Many European settlers — English, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian — treated Native Americans poorly.
“When he came here, that’s what life was 500-some years ago,” says Costa.
Murphy understands but adds, “He is an important figure to Italian Americans, but there’s a lot more important figures we could bring in instead.”
Now Murphy says she does not support vandalizing public statues, and she says the removal should be a community decision.
Costa says many Italian Americans will oppose that effort.