Rita Offutt, Editor
On Saturday, Oct. 9, the Philadelphia Commonwealth Court decided that the Christopher Columbus statue in Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza would remain covered, overruling the earlier Common Pleas Court ruling that the plywood box surrounding the statue be removed. The 145-year-old statue was covered by city officials during the summer of 2020, during protests surrounding the death of George Floyd. In July 2020, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to take down the statue, but a series of appeals have prevented it from being removed.
On Friday, Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick issued an emergency order that a contractor could remove the box surrounding the statue. George Bochetto, an attorney acting on behalf of the statue’s supporters, stated the statue would be uncovered by Sunday night. On Saturday afternoon he said the covering would be removed, “if not tonight, first thing tomorrow morning.” South Philadelphia resident Mark Anthony Carlini spoke out in support of the statue to 6abc, saying, “I think it’s a disgrace that they boxed that statue up. This represents the neighborhood. This represents Italian Americans.” Another supporter of the statue, Francis Recchuiti, said, “We are here to honor our heritage, our grandparents who came here…We want to maintain the fact that we have an ethnic identity…there’s no reason to forget your ethnic heritage, and we have. It’s important for our kids and our grandkids to understand there was tremendous discrimination, but we’ve risen above that.”
Following Patrick’s decision, Philadelphia city officials filed an emergency application to vacate her ruling. The Commonwealth Court’s decision to keep the statue covered was released shortly before 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “City officials described [Patrick’s decision on Saturday as ‘appalling’], which…came before they had time to respond to the request for permission to uncover the statue.” Representatives spoke out against the removal of the box, including Kevin Lessard, who said uncovering the statue “would pose a serious public safety risk.” Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted, “Grateful that the Commonwealth Court took the time to review this important matter tonight. No action will be taken with respect to the statue at this time.”
Monday, Oct. 11 marks the first time Philadelphia will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, replacing the previous Columbus Day holiday after Kenney issued an executive order to change the holiday in January 2021. The annual Columbus Day parade took place on Sunday, Oct. 10 despite the holiday being changed. Throughout both the parade and all of Indigenous People’s Day, the statue remained covered.