Petition demanding the removal of colonies era statue in Barbados
Alex Downes had started a petition in Barbados demanding the removal of colonies era statue honoring British hero, Horatio Nelson. The push is among several gaining traction in the Caribbean in light of the U.S.’s Black Lives Movement. By Courtesy: Alex Downes
The demands for racial justice reverberating across the United States after the police killing of George Floyd has reached the sweltering shores of the Caribbean, and is fueling new life into an old cause: the removal of monuments with colonial and racist legacies.
Thousands of citizens are demanding the toppling of a colonial-era statue of British naval commander and slavery sympathizer Horatio Nelson in Barbados, and monuments to Christopher Columbus in the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.
Online petitions, launched on Change.org, by Caribbean nationals in the three countries are gaining momentum and have received thousands of signatures in just a few days. In each case, organizers have retraced the racist legacies of Nelson and Columbus, who are memorialized in Britain’s former colonies.
“It bothers my brain why someone who was pro-slavery is in a place called National Heroes Square when you have national heroes who represent what we’ve been through,” said Alex Downes, a 30-year-old Barbadian who launched the #NelsonMustGo campaign. “They are part of our history in more of a positive way than Nelson — who never stepped foot in Barbados — ever was.”
Since the launch Sunday, the campaign has garnered more than 7,200 signatures. It has a goal of 7,500. Once he hits his goal, Downes plans to approach the country’s Parliament in hopes that lawmakers and Prime Minister Mia Mottley will finally remove the monument.
The question of what to do about the remnants of colonialism and racism has been a contentious one in the Caribbean, where the calls for the removal of Columbus’ statue, for example, date back to the 1970s in Trinidad.
Similar calls have been gaining traction in the U.S. in recent years. Protesters at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 pulled down a bronze Confederate statue known as Silent Sam, igniting a passionate debate about whether such monuments should go or remain as reminders of past errors.
Recent anti-racism demonstrations following Floyd’s death and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests have only intensified the controversy of toppling the monuments. In recent days, protesters around the U.S. have intentionally gone after Columbus, launching petitions on Change.org to have his monuments dismantled in cities around the U.S. and now the Caribbean, and vandalizing his monuments elsewhere.
On Tuesday, a statue of the Italian explorer was tossed in a lake in Richmond, Virginia, and on Wednesday one in Boston was beheaded while protesters in Miami vandalized the Christopher Columbus statue at Bayside Marketplace.
In the Bahamas, Craig Woodside said he decided to target Columbus as the first step toward “going after a system that represents systematic racism.”
“Seeing the atmosphere of what’s going on around the world right now and realizing we have a few statues here that represent systematic racism and oppression that they imposed on us before we took independence of our country, I decided we needed to stop talking about it” and do something, he said.
Woodside, 31, also launched his petition on Sunday. He has a goal of 10,000 signatures. As of Wednesday, he had received more than 8,500. Woodside and his fellow organizers are also planning on presenting the petition to their Parliament for Columbus’ removal.
Columbus first made landfall in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492, and later established a colony in present-day Haiti. He remains, however, one of history’s most controversial figures, with historians now describing him as being guilty of genocide and opening the door to the brutal shipping of 10 million to 12 million enslaved Africans from Africa to the Americas through the Middle Passage.
Despite that, his images can be found in the English-speaking nations of the Caribbean, where his statue overlooks downtown Nassau on the island of New Providence at the foot of Government House, the official residence of the governor general of the Bahamas.
Woodside wrote on his petition that “Columbus’ use of torture and dismemberment while serving as governor of a Spanish colony in the Bahamas/Caribbean earned him a reputation for shocking sadism.” Woodside included a link to a Sacramento Bee editorial, headlined “Murder, rape, slavery and genocide. Here’s why California must ditch Columbus Day.” Continue reading