Columbus statue removal

Wilmington City Council did not find majority support to encourage the city to permanently remove statues of Christopher Columbus and Caesar Rodney during a vote on a resolution Thursday night.

The two statues were ordered removed by Mayor Mike Purzycki on June 12, 2020, less than two weeks after a riot took place in Market Street, and in a time period statues in other cities in America were being defaced or destroyed.

Council President Trippi Congo brought a resolution for council consideration that would have "encouraged" the statues not be reinstalled by city leaders, but several council members chose to not take a stand, leading to its failure, and no official advice - yea or nay -- was provided.

Councilmembers Linda Gray, Shané Darby, Michelle Harlee, Yolanda McCoy, Rysheema Dixon, and Congo voted to encourage the permanent removals, while Councilman Nate Field providing the only vote against the resolution.

It failed when six members -- Zanthia Oliver, Bregetta Fields, Chris Johnson, Michelle Cabrera, James Spadola, and Loretta Walsh -- all voted present, instead of "yes" or "no."

Walsh, the senior member of council, said more information is needed before an outright call can be made on the statue's future.

"The mayor is the one who decided these come down. He did say there was an overdue discussion needed. I believe that. I think we should demand from the mayor we have that discussion before we make any decisions on these statues."

Council President Congo said there's no decision to be made.

"There's no place for those statues in any public place in our city. They are not heroes. America has never taught true history, so I don't think we can depend on that happening. If those statues go back up, it's definitely going to instill mental trauma on our residents."

Cabrera cautioned more thought needs to be taken as to what to do with the statues long-term.

"It's a beautiful statue; it reminds us of what Caesar Rodney did. But if it reminds people of the fact that he owned slaves, and that causes pain, I'm all for putting it somewhere else. But we should think of these decisions, as we make them, that we can't erase the history just by taking down the statutes. This is our history as ugly as it may be."

Johnson said, while not voting to encourage the permanent removal, that he had an idea who should be leading a committee to make that decision.

"We need a leader, it needs to preferably a female, preferably a person of color, someone who will signify the new Wilmington, the new state."

Gray, before voting to call for the statues' removal, said that something more generic should go into what's currently known as Rodney Square.

"I think we need to have something symbolic there--not a person, not someone who represents an organization or a minority group, because there are a lot of minority groups." 

Field, the lone voter against the resolution to permanently remove the statues, did not speak during the discussion.