Caesar Rodney statue removed from Rodney Square

Nearly ten months after statues of Christopher Columbus and Rodney Square were removed from their Wilmington perches, their futures are back on the radar of Wilmington City Council.

Mayor Michael Purzycki ordered the statues removed and stored on June 12, 2020, less than two weeks after a riot took place on Market Street, in an atmosphere where monuments in other cities depicting historical figures had been defaced or destroyed.

The Caesar Rodney statue is removed from Rodney Square in Wilmington

The bronze statues have remained out of sight since, as has any public debate on their futures until a Wilmington City Council Intergovernmental Committee Meeting to discuss Council President Trippi Congo's resolution that they should not be reinstalled.

Congo said while Wilmington's streets have calmed from protests, that doesn't mean the sentiments towards the statues has changed.

"[Removing the statues] wasn't done as a gesture of 'We hear you, and we care," it was done as a gesture to protect those monuments, and I can understand that.

"To think that those concerns and that anger has gone away would be a huge mistake. They were very violent men. Christopher Columbus was an extremely violent man towards people of color. Caesar Rodney was a slave owner, not trying to mitigate his accomplishments for what he did for our state. To put those statues back in a public place would be a huge mistake."

City Councilwoman Shané Darby agreed, saying it could flare up tensions in Wilminton.

"It would be a slap in the face to the Black and Brown communities to put those statues back up. Put them in a museum someplace where people who do care to look at them can look at them. To sit in the middle of a Black and Brown community, and the type of trauma that we're experiencing, historically, that we still feel from our ancestors, and the systemic racism that we're still faced with today? We do not need those statues up."

Committee Chair Linda Gray said a challenge city council faces is trying to take the lead on what should be done with the statues, hoping they can prevent them from making a public appearance again.

"We don't want someone else to suggest maybe placing them at the Riverfront versus Rodney Square or somewhere else we would not like to see them."

Congo later emphasized, the statues represent something residents of Wilmington can no longer stand behind.

"Wilmington is made of 70% Black and Brown people. I'm not saying that any other races don't have our same concerns, and I appreciate those who do, who can understand our concerns, but I think returning those statues to their original places, or any public place, would reignite those sentiments that were right in our faces a year ago."

No council member has made any declaration on what they would like to see replace the two monuments in Delaware's largest city, but Congo did reference Wilmington's northeastern neighbor.

"Philadelphia has their LOVE Monument, I just want to make sure we get it right."

The full Wilmington City Council will vote on Congo's resolution at the April 15 meeting.