Indigenous activists in Syracuse are holding a rally this Saturday, June 27, 2020 at 5:00 PM in the city’s historic Columbus Circle. Activists join the recent wave of activists to tear down statues that to many represent white supremacy, colonialism, slavery, and genocide.
Blake Garland-Tirado launched a petition online addressed to Mayor Ben Walsh and County Executive Ryan McMahon, which calls for the removal of Salt City’s towering Columbus monument. So far over 12,000 people signed it. Garland-Tirado wrote the following on the petition:
On behalf of the residents of Syracuse, New York, I am demanding the removal of the Columbus Circle Monument. We are a city built on the invaded and occupied territory of the sovereign Onondaga Nation, and a city Indigenous people have always called home which they continue to live in today. We despise such a symbol of Indigenous genocide and erasure in our city. In order to uplift BIPOC, we must recognize that it has no place in our downtown.
There is power in a symbol. While we meet our local governments with demands to reform police and end unjust killings of indigenous people, we must also eliminate the symbols that allow us to view the most racist act of violence in our nation’s history in a heroic light.
That is why we are asking for the removal of the Columbus Circle Monument located in downtown Syracuse. It represents racist acts of violence through the forceful removal of people from their ancestral lands. We ask that these racist acts also be condemned by Mayor Ben Walsh as he has condemned the behavior of police violence against black people.
Removing statues will not solve the problem of police brutality or racism, but it will send a message that Syracuse rejects racism, past and present. It will make racially motivated killings of black citizens by police harder to justify.
Although there is no similar rally yet planned for Utica, two different petition drives were launched – one to demand the Columbus statue, and another demanding it stay. Not all local politicians have let the public know what their views are on the statue. Utica’s Observer Dispatch mentioned that, “Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr., as well as Utica councilmen Joseph Betrus Jr., Jack LoMedico and Frank DiBrango, spoke in favor of keeping the Columbus statue. Two candidates in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi and former U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, also mentioned support for the statue in statements.”
Utica Councilman Mark Williamson spoke out about the statue controversy in his city on the local radio show Talk of the Town, calling opponents of the Columbus statue “fascists.”
The Resilient Indigenous Action Collective, which is organizing the Syracuse rally, wrote the following on the Facebook page for the protest:
We are rallying at the Columbus statue starting at 5pm to call on the city to respond to our unheard demands to have this statue removed.
Please come, share, wear sunscreen and comfortable clothing appropriate for the weather, wear masks, and bring posters that renounce colonialism, anti-Blackness, erasure of Indigenous people, and this KKKolumbus kkkaracter.
More info on accessibility, speakers, etc. will be posted!
For decades, Indigenous people in the community have been demanding that the Columbus statue be removed from downtown Syracuse. On stolen Onondaga land, this statue of a colonizer, enslaver, land thief, torturer, and rapist stands atop caricatures of Native heads, outright symbolizing genocide and erasure of us as Indigenous people. We have sent in petitions, submitted letters, dialogued, pleaded, asked, protested, and demanded this statue come down – and many times left out of conversations about this statue that negatively impacts us most as Indigenous people. In this recent movement toward Black Liberation, we are seeing confederate and Columbus statues coming down across Turtle Island. It is long past time for this statue to go. It is not merely symbolism. It is recognizing that this is unceded land, that the iconography harms our communities, and a possibility for recognizing the shared histories of Indigenous and Black communities toward futures of Indigenous sovereignty and Black Liberation. We aren’t taking no for an answer anymore. Rally with us to. Take. It. Down!