Acting quickly and quietly, city workers early Thursday morning removed a controversial Christopher Columbus from its perch atop San Francisco's Telegraph Hill.
The move was ordered with little notice by Mayor London Breed, just a day before protesters had reportedly planned to topple the 12-foot bronze statue of the 15th century explorer and throw it off Pier 31 into the bay. The statue, which stood adjacent to Coit Tower, had already been defaced multiple times recently.
“It was removed because it doesn’t align with San Francisco’s values or our commitment to racial justice. Doing it quickly was also a matter of public safety,” said Rachelle Axel, Director of Public & Private Partnerships for the San Francisco Arts Commission, which oversees the city's sculptures. “The statue was vandalized three times last week and similar statues across the country have been brought down by citizens during protests.”
Axel said the city's quick response was an effort to preempt Friday's potential protest action.
“A 2-ton statue falling from its pedestal presented a grave risk to citizens,” Axel said in an email. “The statue has been safely placed in storage. We look forward to engaging the community in a meaningful conversation around next steps for the statue, and for the site.”