The statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood near San Francisco’s famed Coit Tower was removed early Thursday after it was vandalized and protesters planned a rally to take it down.
The statue is just one of many coming down in cities across the US amid widespread protests decrying racism and oppression. Many say the statues — often of Confederate leaders — are considered racist symbols of America's legacy of slavery.
San Francisco’s action came on the eve of a planned protest to forcibly take the Columbus statue down.
“A protest flyer circulating online advertised for citizens to remove the statue themselves at an action on Friday, June 19,” a spokesperson for the city’s Arts Commission said. “A 2-ton statue falling from its pedestal presented a grave risk to citizens.”
The statue, she continued, “was removed because it doesn’t align with San Francisco’s values or our commitment to racial justice. Doing it quickly was also a matter of public safety. The statue was vandalized three times last week and similar statues across the country have been brought down by citizens during protests.”
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin confirmed to CNN that the statue of Columbus had been vandalized three times last week.
“At a time of great unrest and deep reflection by our country, we recognize the pain and oppression that Christopher Columbus represents to many,” Peskin, along with Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Catherine Stefani, said in a statement. “We believe that through public art we can and should honor the heritage of all our people, including our Italian-American community, but in doing so we should choose symbols that unify us.”
The city’s Arts and Recreation and Park Commissions will now lead a public process to decide what art will replace the statue of Columbus.
CNN’s Braden Walker contributed to this post.