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Yesterday, the controversial statue of Christopher Columbus found its final resting spot at the Johnston War Memorial Park, a park that has more war memorials than any other park in the state. It was moved into position in the early morning, from a storage facility at Johnston DPW.
There ends the journey for Columbus, who was summarily removed from his Providence platform during the time Black Lives Matter and other civil unrest demonstrations were at their height in the city a few years ago. Two or three acts of vandalism, primarily the throwing of red paint onto the statue, with threats of more serious acts, had the goal of getting the powers that be to remove the statue. And they did.
He was hoisted up and away, to sit in a warehouse, yards away, in irony, from where the annual Columbus Day Parade was held on Federal Hill. Then its future was put into the hands of a Providence committee which decided to sell it to the highest bidder with specific conditions that it not be melted down, resold, etc., and it had to have security. One bidder, a private individual in the southern part of the state stepped forward, but had no security plan.
Enter former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino Jr. who paid $50,000 for the statue and began looking for a place to locate it – and donate it. Enter Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena Jr, who readily agreed to take the statue into the city’s war memorial park – following through on a promise of his father, Mayor Joe Polisena. The tiny “island” of land with bridge access, benches all around, and a steady stream of walkers all times of day and evening, seemed like it was waiting all this time for its centerpiece.
Yesterday, he arrived. Now dark with green patina, the sculpture done by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who also created the Statue of Liberty, was gifted to the city of Providence in 1893. It was never officially appraised but is estimated to be easily worth half a million dollars, and considered to be a one of a kind masterpiece.
Mayor Polisena broke the news of the statue’s move on WPRO Radio’s morning Gene Valicenti Show. Noteworthy, Polisena reinforced that all costs were donated including the purchase of the statue by Paolino, the moving of the statue by DeGregorio Corp, the fence, the base, and the security. No taxpayer dollars were used.
The 24/7 security measures, including camera surveillance, are tied directly into the Johnston Police Department. Other security measures were not outlined.
Gene Valicenti interview on WPRO with Mayor Polisena:
As the interview took place, the crane was on its way, and the flatbed with Columbus positioned, wrapped and ready, was slowly making its way from DPW to the island area at the park.
Photos taken by John A. Cianci at Johnston War Memorial Park Tuesday morning:
After the positioning took place on the prepared base and area, the statue was wrapped tightly with blue tarp, as it will stay until a planned First Annual Columbus Day Weekend event unveiling, is held on Monday, Oct. 9th. The island part of the park will be closed until that time for safety reasons.
Documenting the day’s activities was John A. Cianci, Veterans writer for RINewsToday.com. John is also a Veteran Service Officer, who is with the Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, and the United Veterans Council of Rhode Island. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer. Cianci’s veterans column, “RI Veterans: Did you know?” runs weekly, here, on Thursdays.
A Columbus Day welcome
With an official ceremony planned for Columbus Day weekend, yesterday’s “soft opening” was an opportunity to position him correctly, and make sure fencing, landscaping, and security, were worked on ahead of time for the big reveal. A family event with food trucks, live music, and special guest speakers will take place on Monday, Oct. 9th, from 11am to 3pm, with the unveiling set for 11:30am.
Times have changed from those powder keg moments a short time ago. Yet the issue of statues simmers in our memory and can flash up among people when the topic is brought up. Tolerance of Columbus statues, like other historical monuments, can be a complex issue. While some individuals, particularly the Italian community, advocate for their preservation, others argue for their removal or contextualization due to concerns about Christopher Columbus’ actions and their historical impact on indigenous peoples. One source gave us several reasons why people would consider tolerance in this debate:
It’s important to note that the debate surrounding Columbus statues can be a deeply emotional one. The key is to engage in respectful and informed discussions, considering the perspectives of all stakeholders while striving for a balanced resolution that respects both history and the values of today’s society.
Engaging in a productive and respectful conversation with people who have negative views about Christopher Columbus can be challenging but can also lead to meaningful dialogue and understanding. Here are some strategies for addressing arguments from individuals who dislike Columbus:
Why do people oppose the Christopher Columbus statue here and in other locations in the US?
The debate surrounding Christopher Columbus statues centers on the following points:
The Columbus statue(s) controversy has waned over the last few years, begun at a time when many important issues inflamed the senses of just about everyone. Time will tell if we have matured, growing in respect for one another, and for traditions hundreds of years old.
Johnston, Rhode Island is the most Italian municipality in Rhode Island, and one of the most in the United States, with 46.7 percent of its population claiming Italian ancestry. Mayor Polisena has welcomed adding a statue from the Indigenous community at Johnston War Memorial Park.
Our last story about the Columbus statue move:
Columbus is going to its forever home – in Johnston, RI
Excellent write-up and a great follow-up. I thank you for your attention to this public issue.
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