LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A group of Lancaster County residents is seeking the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue located in downtown Lancaster.
The metal bust placed on display in 1992 rests on county-owned property along Lenox Lane near the Lancaster County Courthouse. Critics say the tribute is insulting to Native Americans and others who say Columbus’s voyage to America included mass murder, slavery and other alleged crimes.
“We have been lying to our children in history books,” said Gene ThunderWolf Whisler, president of the Lancaster County Chapter of Autonomous American Indian Movement. “Please take this horrible man’s statue down and reverse the injustice that has been happening for 500 years.”
Commissioners were united in opposing the removal of the statue.
“Even though Columbus is a flawed human being, I do not support the removal of the statue,” said Commissioner Craig Lehman, a Democrat. “I think we can condemn the bad parts and be thankful for the good parts that led to us having this great country in which we can have discussions like this.”
“It may make some of us uncomfortable to have the statue there, I get that,” added Commissioner Dennis Stuckey, a Republican, “but Columbus is a historical figure important not only to our country but to this hemisphere. I agree with wanting to get history right, but I am not in favor of removing the statue.”
Commissioner Joshua Parsons, also a Republican, agreed the statue should remain.
Lancaster is not alone in its recent Columbus controversy. A statue in New York City’s Central Park was defaced with spray paint on Monday. Columbus’ hands painted red, graffiti at the base of the statue read “hate will not be tolerated.” Whisler says his group does not wish to deface the Lancaster statue.
“I wish it didn’t exist,” he said, “but we’re not going to stoop to that level. We’re going to take it above their (Commissioners) heads – take that route – because when you deface things like that, you only make yourself look worse, and that doesn’t help the cause.”
Lehman disagreed with some likening the Columbus statue with Confederate monuments, which he has publicly supported removing.
“I don’t even understand those monuments,” Lehman said. “That was a totally different country. Columbus is a national holiday. While U.S. heritage isn’t perfect, if we tear them down, we’ll forget who we are.”
“If you’re going to keep it up, maybe add a plaque that says he didn’t really discover America,” said Whisler.
Lehman suggested commissioners examine the possibility of adding a plaque to the Columbus bust, describing Columbus’s failings along with his accomplishments. Another suggestion included adding a different monument paying tribute to a Native American historical figure with importance to Lancaster County.
Following the meeting, Stuckey said there was no further discussion planned regarding the Columbus statue.
“This is the first time we’ve actually had someone bring it to us as an issue,” Stuckey said.