PITTSBURGH (AP) — A western Pennsylvania judge will mediate a dispute over a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus in a Pittsburgh park.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge John McVay declared an impasse in the dispute between the city of Pittsburgh and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America over the Columbus statue in Schenley Park, the Tribune-Review reported.

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McVay issued an order last week instructing the parties to identify who will participate from each side during the mediation, which has not yet been scheduled.

City crews last fall covered the 13-foot (4-meter) statue, which was erected in 1955, in advance of Columbus Day. The Pittsburgh Art Commission voted unanimously to remove the statue and Mayor Bill Peduto agreed, but the Italian Sons and Daughters of America filed a lawsuit.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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McVay granted an injunction halting the removal but urged the parties to try to reach consensus, saying “historical figures are people and necessarily come with heroic qualities along with character flaws” but also saying “racism, slavery and prejudice must always be condemned and rejected by our city.”

The group then asked the judge to remove himself from the case, saying the court had adopted “its own beliefs” on settlement discussions and those beliefs “are based on demonstrably false and biased recitations of history that are swiftly disproven by the primary sources of Columbus’s time.” The judge has not ruled on the recusal motion.

An arts panel in Philadelphia had earlier cleared the way for that city to remove a 144-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus from a south Philadelphia park. City crews built a wooden box around the statue following clashes between protesters and residents.

Statues of Columbus were also removed in nearby Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, after the explorer became a focus of protesters amid nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

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