Byrd Park Columbus statue defaced overnight on Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day

by | Oct 13, 2015 | POLITICS

Richmond is known for having more than a few controversial statues, however one of the less mentioned bronze figures in town got tagged on a day set to honor the “hero.”

Richmond is known for having more than a few controversial statues, however one of the less mentioned bronze figures in town got tagged on a day set to honor the “hero.”

The Christopher Columbus statue, located where Boulevard t-bones into the northern part of Byrd Park, was first erected in December, 1927. Standing 6 1/2 foot high atop a 8 1/2 foot granite pedestal, it was sculpted by Ferruccio Legnaioli and financed by Virginians of Italian birth.

But sometime overnight, the bronze piece was marred by numerous white spray paint marks reading “the original lie.” (close up below)

While some people don’t associate Columbus Day, celebrated the second Monday of every October, as an overly controversial holiday, the annual celebration of a man who brought disease and destruction to what would become the Americas is often called into question.

A CBS segment from 2012 took a look at the history of celebrating Columbus Day, and specifically examined the history of Columbus and his trip.

“He actually didn’t discover North America,” said Historian Lawrence Birdgreen in the segment below. “It’s kind of like space exploration, if it hadn’t been John Glen, it would have been another astronaut at the right time… Columbus came along, and with his outsized ego, his sense of destiny, and his passion for recording what he did – he put his stamp on America.”

Columbus Day was started in 1927 largely as a political move, according to Birdgreen, as a means to incorporate the Italian-American vote in future elections.

But, according to the historian, the Columbus controversy had existed long before modern politically correct concerns.

“The Brutality was the main reason,” said Birdgreen. “Stories of the way he treated the Indians – penned them up, killed them – got back to Spain. Even Ferdinand and Isabella, who were not really known as apostles of humanitarianism, were appalled.”

The dark reality of Columbus, including the mass suicides by the Natives after realizing their eventual defeat at the hands of their new conquerers, is not spared in the video below.

Check it out for some great background:

To counter the Columbus mythos, organizers in the early 90’s started “Indigenous Peoples Day,” which is also celebrated the second Monday every October.

It aims to spotlight the damage Columbus did in his trip, and instead honor the lives of those who lived here before European colonization lead to cultural genocide.

James Mercante, Public Affairs officer for Richmond Police Department, said he wasn’t sure if RPD was aware of the damage (they are now), but if the clean up cost is $1K or more, the graffiti is considered a felony charge.

“We take it very seriously,” said Mercante in a phone interview this morning.

Anyone with information about this crime can reach crime stoppers at 840-780-1000

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at

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