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Columbus council to take up issue of controversial statue

The issue was originally slated to go before the council on July 7 before being moved up.
A 15-year-old created a petition to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus, WI.
A 15-year-old created a petition to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus, WI.((WMTV/Michelle Baik))
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 10:23 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Columbus Common Council plans to begin discussions on the future of one of its statues after a 15-year-old’s petition drive to have it moved.

The council’s Tuesday agenda shows members will take public comments about its statue of Christopher Columbus, the explorer for whom the city is named, as well as the petition that led to the call for taking it down.

The agenda noted that as the petition spread, the council staff began researching the statue and who owns it. It indicated conflicting information had spread about ownership and so the agenda laid out the facts from which council members will be working:

Who owns the Statue of Christopher Columbus?

The City of Columbus is the owner of the Christopher Columbus statue. In April of 2012, the “1992 Columbus Quincentennial Celebration, Inc.” group legally transferred the statue and the land it occupies to the City.

Who owns the property where the statue is located?

Based on the Columbia County GIS maps, it appears the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation owns the parcel where the statue is currently located. During 2015, the Right of Way was changed in advance of work on State Highway 16/60, and while the land given to the City by the 1992 quincentennial group changed ownership at that time, the statue remained in place.

What can the City do with the statue?

The simple answer is that the options are to leave the statue or to remove it. No matter which of those paths are chosen, there are probably additional questions that will need to be answered or issues that need to be addressed.

Columbus City Council agenda

Moving the Statue

Inspired by recent Black Lives Matter protests, Abigail Adams started the drive to have the statue, which stands near the intersection of Highway 16 and Highway 151, moved, arguing its current location does not provide any context for Columbus’ actions upon landing in the Americas and that any statue, by its existence, honors that individual.

“There is nothing here telling the history of how he enslaved thousands of Native Americans,” she said. “There’s nothing here saying he set a precedent for how European colonizers would treat the Native American populations for hundreds of years to come.”

Describing Columbus as a “villain,” Adams says with statues of other “racist historical figures” being removed around the country that her city should do the same with its Columbus statue. She did acknowledge everyone in the community is not onboard with her plan.

“A lot of people think that what I’m trying to do here is erase our history, trying to take away a piece of the city of Columbus,” she said, adding that was not what she was trying to do.

The issue was originally slated to go before the council on July 7 before being moved up.

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