When: Lancaster City Council meeting, June 23.
What happened: Lancaster added its name to the growing list of cities calling for the removal of Christopher Columbus statues and memorials. During its meeting, which was teleconferenced, City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus bust that sits on county-owned property on Lenox Lane near the Lancaster County Courthouse.
Background: The bronze statue, which was placed there by a private citizens group, the Columbus Quincentenary Committee, has been controversial since its unveiling in 1992, which drew about two dozen protesters. In 2017 an activist called upon the council to remove the statue. Because it was located on county-owned land over which it has no jurisdiction, council referred the matter to the county commissioners, who refused the request. The statue was vandalized with spray paint recently by protestors who argue the statue glorifies genocide by the 15th century explorer.
Why it matters: According to the resolution, Columbus and his brothers were brutal rulers of the Spanish colony in what is now known as Haiti, “forcing the Indigenous population into slavery and torturing and parading through the streets the dismembered bodies of those who dared revolt.” The resolution says Columbus “failed to exemplify the qualities of justice and equality symbolized by the courthouse and failed to exemplify the values of integrity and respect for others which are championed by the administration of the City of Lancaster government.”
Quotable: “This is a small thing, and certainly not the last thing, that council can do, not in an effort to revise our history but to reframe our future,” said Council President Ismail Smith Wade-El. “Christoper Columbus, to my belief and to any obvious primary interpretation of the historical record, did not live or ply his trade in alignment with the values that we seek to emulate here in the City of Lancaster.”
What is next: Any action regarding the statue will be up to the county commissioners, who in 2017 were unanimously in favor of keeping the statue. Democratic Commissioner Craig Lehman, who was in favor of keeping it then, announced last week that he now supports removing the statue. Republican Commissioner Josh Parsons, who also was on the board then, said he remains in favor of the statue staying. Republican Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, who was elected last year, is on the record as agreeing with Parsons.