Columbus Common Council votes to remove Christopher Columbus statue

COLUMBUS, Wis. – Following a common council vote Tuesday night, the City of Columbus will be removing its Christopher Columbus statue.

Currently, the statue sits off Highway 16 leaving the city. Last month, a Columbus High School student started a petition to remove the statue, in part inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Abbi Adams said she didn’t believe Christopher Columbus should represent her city and wanted historical context paired with the statue, which was a sentiment echoed by others speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Our state’s motto is simply, ‘Forward,'” said resident Pete Adams. “We have a chance to decide what best represents our city. Is it a man who was a slave trader, participated in genocide as well as being a navigator? By removing the statue and adding more context to it, we would not be erasing history, we would simply be moving our city, and in a small way our country, forward.”

A number of community members at the meeting spoke out against moving the statue, saying it revises and threatens history. While those in support of removing the statue spoke about the importance of swift action, Jack Sanderson, who started another petition to protect the statue, asked the council for more time.

“The mob is pushing this,” Sanderson said. “It is the wrong time to do this. Do not surrender to the mob. This is a political decision in the middle of a heated election year. I would kindly ask and suggest, set up a study group and table it for a year or two until it can be thoughtfully dealt with in time. Do not take it down under the threat of mob action.”

Columbus Mayor Michael Thom said this is one of the city’s most contentious issues he can remember in recent years, and alders said they’ve received plenty of feedback, with both sides of the issue represented fairly equally. Alders discussed the option for a citywide referendum but decided against it.

“When we’re speaking about civil rights and things of that nature, it is meant for the minority,” Alder Ian Gray said. “To expect our community — I would personally hope we’d get a majority opinion for its removal — but to expect that and rely upon that is simply not a good way to go.”

Common council members voted to remove the statue in a four to one vote.

While the statue sits on state-owned land, the city owns the statue itself and will have to decide what to do with it. The local Knights of Columbus chapter has expressed interest in being its caretaker in the meantime.