As the petition calling for the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus grew to almost 8,000 signatures in less than a week, some eager activists took the call a step further, defacing the monument in Port-of-Spain on Sunday night.
Guardian Media visited Columbus Square, where the statue is located on the corner of Independence Square and Duncan Street. The statue was covered in red ‘Danger’ tape, the bust was covered with a black garbage bag and a sign with the word “Murderer” was hung on it.
Contacted for comment, Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez called for cooler heads to prevail until a formal decision can be made on whether the statue should be removed or not.
“This is one of the things we try to tell people, this is not the way to do it and we are currently having a discussion if you have a view, we are listening to your view but you are not going to force me to make a decision by doing this. As a matter of fact, this may even deter my decision,” Martinez said.
He said although the statue is controversial, it has been in that spot since 1881 and to vandalise it is against the law.
“If the general population is interested in moving it, I have no problem with that. However, you can’t deface, you should not be vandalising it. This is public property and this is a free country and a free square, do not do these things, it is not necessary.”
He said he is still looking at responses from the general public on the Port-of-Spain City Corporation’s Facebook account, where a poll was created last week asking whether the statue should be removed. Sometime later this week, Martinez said he would take the question and responses to the City Corporation Council for a decision.
“Yes there is a ground movement to have it removed but at the same time we want to make sure that all the citizens and not one body of citizens are interested in having it moved.”
Guardian Media asked several people who live close by to the statue whether they supported the call for its removal.
A construction worker, who asked to be identified only as Jasson, said he fully supports the movement.
“I think it could come down. Number one, I don’t really endorse these fellas because they promoted slavery and they did a lot of wrongdoing. Number two, as Burning Spear say, he is an old damn blasted liar,” Jasson said.
Jasson was referencing a song by Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter, Winston Rodney sobriquet Burning Spear title ‘Christopher Columbus.’
However, young Breanna Thomas disagreed.
“I personally don’t think the statue should be removed because it serves as a reminder of all the history surrounding it and even if you do remove the statue, it doesn’t destroy all the atrocities or the idea of it. I think it serves as a good reminder of all the mistakes made in history and how we should not repeat it,” Thomas said.