St. Louisans have heated debate over Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park

ST. LOUIS – There's controversy over the Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park.

Members of the community gathered in Tower Grove Park Saturday to discuss the statue of Christopher Columbus. It was erected in here in 1886.

Some see Christopher Columbus as an Italian explorer who ventured out to discover parts of the New World; others take issue with his treatment and exploitation of the native people.

Basmin, a St. Louis resident says, “Removal of the statue at least brings attention for people to understand some of the history and the knowledge that we’ve been separated from. What has occurred to indigenous people has been erased. They still exist. There's actual history that is more accurate as to what occurred has not been taught. “

“I don’t want something that glorifies that process of colonization of this land we call America. There’s just no reason to glorify that and that’s with that statue represents to me and so I want to take the steps to see it's addressed," says organizer Chris Singer.

“It is important to educate people that he lived and that he played a part in history and we shouldn’t feel good about it," says another man.

Tower Grove Park Executive Director Bill Reininger says the park is one of only 7 other parks in the country to have status as a national historic landmark because of its architecture, statues and other art.

He says, " We have to really address that with caution as we move forward in the conversation. We are really proud of that designation, but we also want to make sure that everybody feels included and welcome to the park.”

He says around Columbus Day, for at last the past three years, the monument has been vandalized. He says they’re open to having a discussion about what should be done about the statue if anything.  They’re in the process of putting together an independent commission to talk about the issue.

“From there we’ll have some public hearings and opportunities for people to come in and make their voices heard about what they want us to do with the Columbus statue,” explains Megan Ellyia Green, Alderwoman of the 15th ward.

This process is still in its beginning phases. Park leaders don’t believe they’ll have a resolution by this Columbus Day since they hope to have a thoughtful discussion in the hopes of making the right decision on how to move forward.