Statues of Christopher Columbus vandalized in multiple states amid controversy over the holiday

Landmarks in both California and Rhode Island were painted red.

October 14, 2019, 4:14 PM

Statues of Christopher Columbus were vandalized amid continued calls to change the name of the federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer.

Red paint, along with messages about genocide, were sprayed on landmarks in both San Francisco and Providence, Rhode Island, on Sunday.

A sign that read "Stop celebrating genocide" was placed at the foot of the Columbus statue, located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence, ABC Providence affiliate WLNE reported. The statue was covered with red paint.

PHOTO: A sign reading "stop celebrating genocide" sits at the base of a statue of Christopher Columbus on Oct. 14, 2019, in Providence, R.I.
A sign reading "stop celebrating genocide" sits at the base of a statue of Christopher Columbus on Oct. 14, 2019, in Providence, R.I., after it was vandalized with red paint on the day named to honor him as one of the first Europeans to reach the New World.
Michelle R. Smith/AP

The statue was also vandalized in 2010 and 2017, according to the station.

In San Francisco, a Columbus statue near Coit Tower was also sprayed with red paint. Graffiti at the bottom read, "Destroy all monuments of genocide and kill all colonizers." Supervisors in the city voted to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day in January 2018, ABC San Francisco station KGO reported.

Police said they're investigating the incident, KGO reported.

Columbus Day observes the anniversary of the explorer's arrival on what is now the Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492. Many Italian Americans honor their heritage on Columbus Day with parades and festivals.

However, in recent years, indigenous people and others have rallied against the holiday, claiming Columbus enslaved and murdered many indigenous people. There is now a growing movement to reclaim the day in honor of indigenous people and their unique cultures and contributions.

At least eight states and 130 cities have legally changed the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, including Wisconsin, where Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order on Oct. 7.

Other states are attempting to find a middle ground. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Sitt signed legislation recognizing the day as both Native Americans Day and Columbus Day.

Some have replaced Columbus Day with other titles related to the Native American community. Summit City, Ohio, selected "First Peoples Day" and Hawaii switched to "Discoverers Day."

The city council in Washington, D.C., passed emergency legislation last week to rename the federal holiday. For the change to become permanent, it requires congressional approval within 225 days, according to the city council.