Crews remove controversial statue in San Francisco that activists called racist and demeaning

As drums beat and people chanted, crews on Friday morning took down a controversial statue in San Francisco's Civic Center because critics and Native Americans had long complained it harkened to the country's racist past.

The removal comes after the San Francisco Board of Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday night to remove the "Early Days" statue. It depicts a Native American at the feet of a Spanish cowboy and a Catholic missionary. It had been in its location for 124 years.

Activists have argued for decades that the statue is racist and demeaning to indigenous people. They  renewed their efforts last year to finally remove it. Dozens of people came out about 5 a.m. Friday to watch the removal and chant native songs as pieces of it came down.

Morning Star Galli, who represents the International Indian Treaty Council, told KTVU she came to bear witness the removal of the statue. She said that she didn't want Native American children to feel any  more "humiliation" by seeing their people treated in such a stereotypical way.

Kate Patterson, a spokeswoman for San Francisco's Arts Commission, says the statue will be restored and put in storage until officials decide what to do with it.

The says several entities, including a museum in California, have expressed interest in housing it.

The statue is part of a group of statues depicting California's founding.

The board had voted in April voted to overturn a decision by the city's Arts Commission to remove the sculpture.

At the time, appeals board member Rick Swig called the statue "horrible" but said removing it would squash free speech.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.