Baltimore Mayor Vetoes Renaming Christopher Columbus Obelisk

The bill was drafted as communities and institutions in Maryland and around the world face calls to address racist legacies

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young speaks during a news conference on June 5, 2020.
Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Baltimore's mayor has vetoed a bill that would have rededicated a Christopher Columbus monument to victims of police violence, sharing concerns with the city's police commissioner that the two-story-tall obelisk is too close to a separate monument honoring fallen officers.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a Democrat, expressed reservations about the bill in a letter to City Council President Brandon Scott dated Monday, The Baltimore Sun reported. Scott is also a Democrat, as are all council members.

The newspaper said that Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison were worried the monument that was set to be renamed was too close to another memorial honoring officers who died in the line of duty.

Harrison first questioned the location of the proposed monument, which is in the same section of a park as the memorial to the Baltimore officers.

“I agree with the commissioner that both memorials are important, and that they should be places for reflection and remembrance, free of disruption and divisiveness,” The Sun quoted Young's letter as saying.

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who introduced the legislation, tweeted the letter Monday with a response.

“If cops are saying that they don’t want a memorial for victims of police violence near a memorial for police, then it’s the cops sowing division," Dorsey wrote.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday ordered the removal of all Confederate statues on city land. “We have an urgent need to protect the public,” Stoney said in a statement.

His proposal had called for the Columbus obelisk to be changed into the “Victims of Police Violence Monument.” The council approved the measure by an 11-4 vote in September.

The bill was drafted as communities and institutions in Maryland and around the world face calls to address racist legacies and as many called for the removal of monuments considered to be symbols of inequality. Some of the targeted items included Confederate monuments and memorials to other historical figures, such as Columbus.

This summer, a group of protesters in Baltimore toppled a different statue of the Italian explorer and tossed it into the city’s Inner Harbor.

A statue depicting former President Theodore Roosevelt with a Native American man and an African man on either side of his horse is being moved in New York City.

Also on Monday, a bill changing the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Baltimore became law without Young's signature, The Sun said.

The law changes the holiday in Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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