Public opinions split on what to do with Christopher Columbus statue in Peoria

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Christopher Columbus statue in Laura Bradley Park is causing a public debate that is split down the middle in Peoria.

Many people said they want the statue gone and others said they want it to stay right where it is.

The Peoria Park District Board of Trustees held a public comment meeting Wednesday evening where the public could give their opinions on the fate of the statue.

The nearly 30 people present, and more via telephone, offered mixed opinions. Some people said removing the statue would be erasing American History.

“There’s absolutely no reason to remove that statue,” one person said.

Others said they believed removing the statue would be eliminating a disgrace.

“Christopher Columbus was no hero and its time children know not of his bravery, but of his treachery,” Garrett Forrest, a Mackinaw resident, said.

The statue first found home in Peoria in 1902 at the center of the intersection of Columbia Terrace and North Institute Place before being relocated to Bradley Park in 1947.

Libby Tronnes, an assistant professor at Bradley University, said she believed the statue should go because of Columbus’ negative history with indigenous people.

“It’s an acknowledgment that we do live in a country that is founded on dispossessing native people and founded on enslaving Black people,” Tronnes said.

Louis Kanowsky, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Spalding Council #427, said Columbus is responsible for helping bring generations of Europeans to America and should be judged for the good he did and not the bad.

“I don’t think we can judge every historical figure by today’s standards,” Kanowsky said.

The subject of removing statues of controversial historical figures isn’t only being discussed in Peoria. After recent civil unrest across the nation, more people throughout the country have been calling the removal of other statues similar to the Christopher Columbus monument.

“Let’s stop honoring a dishonorable man,” Forrest said. “Let’s take down this statue and begin the process of educating reality.”

Some said statues can offer a history lesson for generations and don’t necessarily have to honor the portrayed individual.

“I believe that as long as that statue exists, it’s up to the elders to discuss that with their children the good things and the bad things,” Alan Curry said.

Some people also offered another suggestion, saying the statue could simply be relocated to another area without actually being destroyed.

Board members said they’ll use notes from Wednesday’s meeting while they discuss the issue further. They said they’ll continue doing research on the topic before making a final decsion in September.

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