Outrage from Native American activists and their supporters has led a liberal California city closer to tearing down what they considered an offensive monument — to President William McKinley.
It’s the latest in a string of moves to scrap monuments decried as offensive to Native Americans — coming after the nationwide controversy over statues of Confederate leaders.
The activists in Arcata, Calif., some 280 miles north of San Francisco, wanted the city’s 8½-foot bronze statue of McKinley taken down because they said the 25th president of the United States was a proponent of “settler colonialism” that “savaged, raped and killed,” the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous People told The Los Angeles Times.
In February the City Council of the sanctuary city voted 4 to 1 to get rid of the statue.
“Is there a difference between honoring McKinley and Robert E. Lee?” Mayor Sofia Pereira told the Times. “They both represent historical pain.”
Arcata, according to the newspaper, was the first American city to ban the sale of genetically modified foods, the first to elect a majority Green Party city council and one of the first to allow marijuana farming before marijuana was legal. Now it would be the first city to rip down a presidential statue.
It will take eight months to remove the monument with a total cost of $65,000, pending a lengthy environmental review required by state law, according to the report.
The statue has been in Arcata Plaza since 1906, according to the Times, when a local businessman gave it to the city to honor “the first modern president.”
McKinley, an expansionist president, was born in Ohio and assassinated early in his second term. He was shot at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition in September 1901, and died eight days later.
“The Native people here have avoided that square for years,” Ted Hernandez, chairman of the 620-member Wiyot Tribe, based on a reservation about 20 miles south of Arcata, told the Times. “Why do we have this man standing in this square where they used to sell our children?”
David LaRue, who has lived in Arcata for 22 years, has been gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to let the city’s residents decide the statue’s fate.
“Certainly by today’s standards, he had different ways of looking at things,” he told the Times. “But looking at Abraham Lincoln by today’s standards, you could also say he was a horrible racist.”
The activists say they were spearheaded by the wave of protests over Confederate monuments across the U.S. in the last year. Protests against gained Confederate monuments momentum following the racially motivated 2015 murders of nine people at an African-American church in South Carolina and again after last year’s violent protests at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.
More than 25 cities across the United States have removed or relocated Confederate statues and monuments amid an intense nationwide debate about race and history, as Fox News previously reported. Many of the controversial monuments were dedicated in the early 20th century or during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
In March, the San Jose City Council got rid of a statue of Christopher Columbus from the lobby of its city hall; in Baltimore, a city councilman vowed to replace a vandalized Columbus monument with a depiction that reflects “current-day values,” according to The Times; the Columbus statue in San Jose was moved to the hall of the Italian American Heritage Foundation, where the group said it will be enclosed as protection from vandalism.
The city of Kalamazoo, Mich., said in March it would remove a park monument of a Native American in a headdress kneeling before a westward-facing pioneer. In Alcalde, N.M., and El Paso, Texas statues of the conquistador Juan de Oñate have become subjects of renewed debate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.