Connecticut’s largest city is considering the fate of a statue of Christopher Columbus removed from a public park.
Racial justice protests nationally and in Connecticut demanded the removal of statues of the Italian explorer. A Columbus statue in another major Connecticut was beheaded in July — and then Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim removed the statue in the city’s Seaside Park. The city’s parks department voted last month to return the statue to its pedestal, but it’s not back up yet.
Residents argued both sides in a heated virtual town meeting Thursday. Eleanor Kozakowicz said she’d enjoyed the statue for years.
“These statues don’t bother anybody. They bring happiness to the Italian heritage, which they’ve loved for years. Chris Columbus represents an Italian pride, heritage, not racism. Anyone that says otherwise is poppycock,” she said.
Columbus enslaved and killed indingeous people in the West Indies — and protesters say he’s a symbol of systemic racism. Resident Shayna Taylor said returning the statue could cause an uproar in Bridgeport — the city has seen protests through the summer connected to the 2017 police killing of a teenager.
“Our city is already hurting. We need healing, we need to come together. Putting that statue up is not going to be a reflection of that. I ask you to please keep that statue down,” Taylor said.
A City Council committee voted Thursday night to leave the matter up to the city’s Parks Department.