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Christopher Columbus, Caesar Rodney statues come down in Wilmington, for now

Courtesy of the City of Wilmington
The statue of Christopher Columbus is removed from Delaware Ave.

The City of Wilmington is taking down — and storing— statues of Christopher Columbus and Caesar Rodney.

Columbus was removed from a small park on Delaware Ave. Friday morning— and Caesar Rodney is coming down Friday evening. The statue of Caesar Rodney, a former executive leader of Delaware, signer of the Declaration of Independence and slave owner, stands above a square that bears his name at the center of the city. 

The removal seems to be an effort to preempt possible destruction of the statues by protesters — as well as a response to the moment of racial reckoning. 

City officials say they have been monitoring social media posts indicating individuals and groups are “poised” to damage or remove the statues this weekend. 

A memorial to law enforcement officers in Dover was found damaged early Friday morning. 

It is not clear whether the Wilmington statues will stay down. Officials say they are being stored to allow for a “community discussion” about the public display of historical figures.


In a statement Friday, Mayor Mike Purzycki called such a discussion "overdue."

“We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be, but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize,” he said. “We can determine together how we should proceed as a City when it comes to public displays. In this period of awakening for our City, State, and country, we should be listening more to each other and building a more just City and a better America.”

Gov. John Carney said during his biweekly press briefing Friday afternoon he sees it as troubling that it had come to this, but added he’s open to a conversation about the statues.

“I think this idea of having a conversation about our past and coming together as a community about what the future looks like in respect to those symbols is an important exercise," said Carney.

Statues of Christopher Columbus are falling across the country. One was reportedly thrown into a lake in Richmond, Va., one was beheaded in Boston and another pulled to the ground in St. Paul, Minn. City officials reportedly took one down in Camden, N.J.

This story has been updated.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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