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Statues Celebrating Colonialism, Racism, and Oppression Toppled Across US and Worldwide

"It's a powerful thing for us to be able to dismantle the entire building of this country, the truths and the untruths that have been told about Christopher Columbus."

Mike Forcia, of the Black River Anishinabe, celebrated after the Christopher Columbus statue was toppled in front of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

People across the U.S. and around the world are tearing down statues to some of the most brutal and racist men in history, a movement spurred by ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and inaction on the part of authorities to take down the racist monuments.

The statues, long a source of pain and anger for the victims of racist state abuses, are being pulled down by activists as part of a long-awaited reckoning for western nations with their past. 

At the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, activists led by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus. 

"It's a powerful thing for us to be able to dismantle the entire building of this country, the truths and the untruths that have been told about Christopher Columbus, how he came here and he did all of this good work," said Dorene Day, whose mother Charlotte was a founding mother of AIM. "Well, it's all lies. It's all lies."

A statue of Columbus in Boston, beheaded Tuesday night, was removed on Thursday morning. 

In Richmond, Virginia on Tuesday, demonstrators deposited a statue of Columbus into a nearby pond. 

Statues of Coumbus have come down across Europe as well, along with monuments to Belgian King Leopold II, whose brutaility toward the Congolese in the late nineteenth century still shocks historians. 

In the U.K., demonstrators have torn down monuments to men who made their fortunes in the slave trade and who were part of the nation's imperial past. 

"It's not the erasure of history that the right fear," tweeted Guardian columnist Owen Jones. "It's that our full history will be remembered, including the horrors of colonialism, and that will force us to reassess our present."

A list of Columbus statues across the U.S. and around the world can be found here.

Meanwhile, demonstrators across the American South tore down monuments to Confederate leaders, including a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond.

Elsewhere in the state, in Norfolk, members of the community smashed the heads of statues of four Confederate soldiers and pulled down one, injuring a protester. 

Intercept editor Ryan Grim, on Twitter, put the Confederacy-celebrating statues in historical context.

"Confederates weren't just vicious racists and traitors, they were also losers," said Grim. "They lost a single election and quit the country, then lost the war and pretended to surrender so they could try terrorism instead. Losers and cowards."

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