Christopher Columbus statue toppled by Baltimore protesters

Protesters mobilised by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police have called for the removal of statues

FILE - In this June 24, 2020, file photo, Tyshawn, 9, left, and his brother Tyler, 11, right, of Baltimore, hold signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" as they sit on a concrete barrier near a police line as demonstrators protest along a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington. Thousands of Black activists from across the U.S. will hold the 2020 Black National Convention on Aug. 28, 2020, via livestream to produce a new political agenda that builds on the protests that followed George Floyd’s death. Organizers of the gathering shared their plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday, July 1, ahead of an official announcement. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Baltimore protesters pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it into the city's Inner Harbor on Saturday night.

Demonstrators used ropes to topple the monument near the Little Italy neighbourhood, news outlets reported.

Protesters mobilised by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, Confederate figures and others. They say the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the statue was owned by the city and dedicated in 1984 by former Mayor William Donald Schaefer and President Ronald Reagan.

Statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalised in cities such as Miami; Richmond, Virginia; St Paul, Minnesota; and Boston, where one was decapitated.

Long hailed as the so-called discoverer of "The New World," Columbus is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas. He is regularly denounced in a similar way to Civil War generals of the pro-slavery South.

President Donald Trump earlier mentioned the sailor in his speech to mark the July 4 holiday, when Americans typically celebrate their 1776 declaration of independence from Britain.

"Together we will fight for the American dream, and we will defend, protect, and preserve American way of life which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America," he said in an address in which he railed against protesters demanding racial justice.

"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing," he said.

"We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children."

The president last month signed an executive order pledging to enforce prosecution for protesters who vandalise public memorials, promising "long prison terms" for "lawless acts against our Great Country!"

A statue of Columbus was taken down in San Francisco last month because the explorer's actions "do not deserve to be venerated," city officials said, and another was removed from California's state capital Sacramento.

Elsewhere, a statue of Belgium's King Leopold II - who ruled over a brutal regime in Africa - was removed in the port city of Antwerp and a monument to slave trader Edward Colston was ripped down in Bristol in the United Kingdom.

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