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Columbus Day to be marked with protest over the explorer's place in St. Louis park

The Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park is the site of controversy. The statue was dedicated in 1886.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio
The Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park is the site of controversy. The statue was dedicated in 1886.

This Columbus Day, the fate of a monument to the explorer in St. Louis’ Tower Grove Park remains unclear.

A protest is planned at the base of the statue on Monday at noon. It comes as the park is looking into whether to remove the monument to Christopher Columbus, whose legacy has become increasingly controversial in recent years.

“We’re all very aware that the statue is an important symbol we don’t want to exist in the park anymore,” said Chris Singer, an organizer for the protest. “The fact that it’s largely symbolic of a legacy that can be traced from historical roots like slavery and displacement of indigenous people in this land to current things in this country that we want to address.”

Bill Reininger, Tower Grove Park's executive director, has no intention of discouraging protests.

“The park is a welcome place for everyone,” Reininger said. “They’re open and welcome to gather and discuss the issue.”

He said the park has finalized a commission that will recommend what to do with the monument.

“Their task will be to make recommendations to our Board of Commissioners, which is our governing body, as to what is the best course of action regarding the Christopher Columbus statue,” Reininger said.

The commission is slated to meet for the first time later this month.

Reiniger said several of the representatives will be from various cultural and social groups including the Osage Historic Preservation, The Hill 2000 Neighborhood Association and a representative from Black Lives Matter. Other commission members include those from the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri Historical Society and the National Parks Service.

The Christopher Columbus statue is located at the eastern entrance of Tower Grove Park. The statue was dedicated in 1886.
Credit Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio
The Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park is located at the east entrance of the park.

Reninger said the makeup of the local commission is based off a similar one from New York City.

“The recommendations in their report, which was released in January of this year, was to keep their Christopher Columbus statue, to utilize interpretive signage regarding it and to have balancing artwork established within the next five years,” Reininger said.

The group is in a fact-finding phase, gathering information from the St. Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum, he said. A professor from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville also will be sharing information about Columbus with the commission.

“So that on our first meeting towards the later part of this month, all of those individuals will have the opportunity to look at background information regarding Columbus,” he said.

The Columbus statue by artist Ferdinand von Miller was dedicated in 1886 and is one of four large statues lin the park.

On Monday’s "St. Louis on the Air," host Don Marsh will mark the occasion of Columbus Day, talking about the history of the explorer with Peter Kastor, professor and chair of the Department of History at Washington University.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.