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Columbus statue to remain on Ohio Statehouse grounds for now

The process to remove this statue of Christopher Columbus, shown Thursday, July 16, 2020, outside the Ohio Statehouse will take at least five years as the agency that oversees the capital grounds voted to implement a process to review proposals for removal Thursday. (AP Photo/Farnoush Amiri)

By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A statue of Christopher Columbus will not be removed from the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse until at least 2025, officials said Thursday.

The 9-foot-tall, copper statue of Columbus, in place since 1932, will remain erected in front of the Statehouse in the largest city that bears the explorer’s name until a formal process for removal is undergone by the agency that manages the grounds.

In its first meeting since January, one prompted by divisions of the sculpture, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board voted to draft rules for the first time that would outline a policy of removing a statue or monument off of Capital Grounds — but with a long timeline.

“We want to make good decisions that are not necessarily based on the moment of the day but long-term,” House Speaker Larry Householder told reporters after the meeting. “These are historical grounds. This is forever.”

The decision will allow any group or individual to submit a proposal to the board for the removal of the Columbus statue, but the process to get final approval will take a period of five years, meaning the earliest the statue could be removed will not be until sometime in 2025.

The meeting to discuss the removal of the statue comes as two others have fallen in the namesake city in recent weeks as the nation faces a racial reckoning over the monuments and statues dedicated to Confederates and other historical figures who repressed or oppressed other people.

A statue of the explorer located on the campus of Columbus State Community College was removed June 19 and the one in front of Columbus’ City Hall was removed July 1 and placed in storage.

“We do not seek to erase history, but to make an intentional shift in what we visibly honor and celebrate as an institution,” Columbus State Board of Trustees President Anthony Joseph said upon announcing the removal.

State Senator Hearcel F. Craig, a Columbus Democrat who sits on the board, voted in favor of the new statue-removal rules Thursday, but he said delayed action is unwarranted for a statue whose removal is “long overdue.”

“We must remove our city’s remaining Christopher Columbus statue to further demonstrate our commitment to combating the lingering racism and oppression resulting from his legacy,” Hearcel said in a statement. “Citizens around Ohio do not condone divisiveness and egregious injustice, and do not want to see symbols of oppression on their public properties.”

Householder called removal of both the other statues “knee jerk reactions,” that did not allow for all parties to weigh in.

There has long been debate across the nation over the Columbus’ legacy, with some calling him a symbol of the conquest and subjugation of indigenous people. Columbus, Ohio’s capital, quietly canceled its Columbus Day holiday beginning in 2018.

Dozens of other statues in honor of Columbus have also come down around the country as nationwide protests took place in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Householder told reporters at this point he would not be inclined to support the removal of the Columbus statue.

“Nobody’s perfect, the Republican lawmaker said. “I always look at all of these historical figures in the light of their accomplishments, more than whether they are a perfect human or not.”

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.