by Resilient Indigenous Action Collective / Press Release
Call to Action from the Resilient Indigenous Action Collective:
Resilient Indigenous Action Collective (RIAC) held a rally on Saturday, June 27, 2020 in
which we asked Syracuse city Mayor Ben Walsh to commit to removing the Columbus
Monument within 48 hours. This request follows decades of Indigenous-led organizing work, especially efforts of sovereign Onondaga people on whose unceded lands this statue stands, to remove this monument to Columbus that represents genocide, rape, land theft, slavery, and ongoing colonization. Following these decades of organizing, this request also points to nearly three years of dialogic activity that has occurred in the city during Mayor Walsh’s term as well as the growing call across what is now called the United States to eradicate symbols that glorify genocide, slavery, anti-Blackness, and erasure of Indigenous peoples. We have witnessed swift mayoral decisions in other cities, in light of widespread movement toward Black liberation, to remove vestiges that memorialize horror, racism, and violence against Black and/or Indigenous people. In particular, mayors in San Francisco, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Columbus, Ohio, among others, have all made decisions to remove their cities’ Columbus monuments. Given these examples, our request to Mayor Walsh to decide to remove the statue within 48 hours provides ample opportunity for him to make and share this decision publicly.
In a June 25, 2020 meeting with concerned constituents, including members of RIAC,
Mayor Walsh expressed that the statue was, in fact, racist. In an interview with Amanda Hull of CNY Central after the June 27 rally, the Mayor also expressed that “as long as that statue stays standing people will continue to hurt.” The Mayor’s acknowledgement that the statue is racist and causes harm to Indigenous and other communities of color should signal a swift resolution for its immediate removal. In this current climate, amidst widespread work to address state-sanctioned violence against Black people and a global pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous and other people of color, Mayor Walsh recognizes the racist harm this statue imparts on our communities, yet still refuses to make a clear decision regarding its disposition. RIAC expresses our deepest disappointment in learning that the Mayor, when given an opportunity to align with a just understanding of history that values liberation and anti-racism, chooses to align with a representation of history in which Black and Indigenous pain and erasure become part of the everyday fabric of life and violence in the United States.
RIAC announced at the rally that we will be heard and will continue to put pressure on the city to remove the statue. With more than 14,000 signatures and thirty-six organizations signing their support to have the Columbus Monument removed, we demand Mayor Walsh issue a statement denouncing racism and racist iconography in Syracuse and commit to the statue’s removal. Until such time as this request is met, RIAC will continue to put pressure on the Mayor’s office to align with justice and anti-racism. At this time, we call on our supporters to flood the mayor’s phones and emails to amplify our demand to have this statue removed.
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