Rioters in Baltimore on Saturday night pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus that former President Ronald Reagan helped unveil in 1984 – and then tossed the statue into the city’s Inner Harbor, according to reports.
The statue had stood at the entrance to the city’s Little Italy neighborhood for 36 years, FOX 45 of Baltimore reported.
The attack came hours after rioters in Connecticut beheaded a Columbus statue there.
The Baltimore demonstrators had threatened to remove the statue for weeks, according to the station.
The destruction came after a Little Italy group hired private, unarmed security personnel to guard the statue around the clock – but it was unclear if anyone was trying to guard it Saturday, FOX 45 reported.
Video posted to social media showed people pulling chains that had been tied around the statue, with one black-clad rioter giving the statue a final push as a crowd cheered.
The toppling of the Columbus statue continued a wave of vandalism targeting statues and monuments across the nation – mostly targeting historical figures who critics regard as racists. Statues vandalized or destroyed in other cities have included those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, two American founding fathers who owned slaves.
While many Italian-Americans regard Columbus as personifying their history and heritage in the Western hemisphere, others see Columbus as a conqueror who brought death and oppression to the indigenous population after he first arrived in 1492.
Lester Davis, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young, called the destruction of the Columbus statue part of a “re-examination taking place nationally and globally around some of these monuments and statues that may represent different things to different people,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
Earlier Saturday, rioters in Waterbury Conn., beheaded a Christopher Columbus statue there, FOX 61 of Hartford reported.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary issued a statement saying he was disappointed and disturbed by the crime.
“I am deeply disappointed and disturbed by the destruction inflicted upon the Christopher Columbus statue today,” O’Leary wrote. “The City of Waterbury, and I as Mayor, are deeply committed to taking action to address the impact and inequities caused by systemic racism. However, this type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The local chapter of UNICO, an Italian-American organization, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a vandalism suspect or suspects, FOX 61 reported.