Movement to remove San Francisco statue gains attention

San Francisco is now joining the nationwide debate surrounding the removal of controversial statues.

Demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent after white Nationalists protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue and now dozens of Confederate statues across America have been coming down.

In New York City, a Christopher Columbus monument may be next on the chopping block and in San Francisco, a pioneer statue is fanning the flames of Native Americans.

The statue is part of a 800-ton monument which sits between the Asian Art Museum and the Main Library near San Francisco City Hall.

It's topped by a large statue of the goddess of wisdom and war, but the controversial part is down below on the eastern side called "Early Days."

"I mean it just off the bat, it looks degrading as it is," said Dustin Shafae.

The statue depicts a half-clothed Native American sitting on the ground, with a Spanish cowboy and missionary standing over him. The cowboy's hand is raised in victory, while the missionary's one hand is pointing toward Heaven, the other outstretched toward the prone American Indian.

A Facebook group of about 200 people calls the statue racist and wants it gone.

"When we have a statue that is depicting the genocide of members of our community, it does make people feel like they are not a respected part of San Francisco," said Supervisor Jane Kim who supports the effort to remove the statue.

"I look at it as the finger up as a position of reprimanding," said passerby Harvey Turner.

"I'm not offended by it and actually I do have native background. I'm not offended by it personally but with that said, I have to be sensitive to those who are," said Louie Hammonds of San Francisco.

"You still don't understand it until you see if through someone else's eyes," said Dustin.

The statue dates back to 1894. In the early 1990s came cries for its removal. As a concession, the city installed a small, difficult-to-find plaque acknowledging this dark part of California's history.

"I do think that it is a part of our history," said Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) of San Mateo. The Confederacy was a part of our history and most of those statues belong in museums where you can actually talk about the history and how they played out."

"Taking away the statue doesn't mean that we sweep away the history of atrocities," agreed Kim. "We still have to continue to educate um our city and our students about what we've done so we can learn from our mistakes."

Fundraising is currently underway for a statue of San Francisco poet Maya Angelou outside the Main Library. Kim proposes to erect it in the Pioneer statue's place.

The SF Arts Commission will hear public comment on the matter October 2nd.

In order to get the statue removed there will be a very lengthy process to determine the artistic and historic value of the statue as well as how much it would cost to dismantle.

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