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Protesters tear down Christopher Columbus statue in Richmond, then throw it in a lake

Protesters have torn down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Virginia's state capital and threw it into a nearby lake.
A posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus painted by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Public domain)

RICHMOND, Va. (WTHR) - Protesters have torn down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Virginia's state capital and threw it into a nearby lake.

WWBT reports the statue was located in Byrd Park on the west side of the city.

Virginia Public Media said after the statue was pulled down, an American flag was laid on top of it and set on fire. The statue was then dragged to a nearby lake and rolled into the water. VPM tweeted pictures of the statue on fire and also in the lake.

VPM reported more than 200 protesters joined the demonstration at the statue. The radio station said the organizers of the protest intended "to bring attention to discrimination facing indigenous peoples, and show solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement."

The statue had been a fixture at Byrd Park ever since it was erected nearly a century ago. At that time, the monument was controversial due to anti-Italian and anti-Catholic sentiment, which prevented it from being placed alongside Confederate figures on Monument Avenue.

In more recent years the 15th-century navigator has seen a different kind of controversy, because the actions of his trips to the New World spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

On Monday, a judge in Richmond issued an injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee for the next 10 days.

The temporary injunction order says the state is a party to a deed recorded in March 1890 whereby it accepted the statue, pedestal and ground they sit on and agreed to “faithfully guard and affectionately protect” them.

Northam last week ordered the statue of Lee taken down, citing the pain felt across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

Last Saturday, protesters also tore down the statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham from its pedestal in Richmond’s Monroe Park.

The Associated Press and WVEC contributed to this story.