“Defy The Lie”: Students and Native Americans Protest Columbus Statue

by | Oct 18, 2019 | RICHMOND POLITICS

On Columbus Day, the statue, located on Arthur Ashe Boulevard near Byrd Park, drew protests from a homeschool co-op and a local Cherokee tribe.

Dozens of people gathered around the Christopher Columbus statue near Byrd Park this Monday in protest of Columbus Day and colonization. The “Defy the Lie” protest was organized by Cultural Roots Homeschool Co-Op, a Richmond-based co-op consisting of kids aged five to 15 and their guardians.

The Co-op and other protesters gathered around the statue near Fountain Lake on Arthur Ashe Boulevard, holding signs with phrases like “Columbus is a Lie” and “Genocide is no thing to celebrate.”

“Those kids are calling for them to shut down the lie,” said protester Vanessa Bolin. “The voice of indigenous people and black and brown people demand justice, [and] that they stop being taught a lie in history books.”

Days before the event took place, the Co-Op posted an open call on Facebook inviting other Richmond residents to come join the protest. Among those who participated were representatives from Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe Inc., a Henrico-based nonprofit organization. Though the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe is not one of the 11 indigenous tribes recognised by Virginia, they are fighting to change that, according to Wolf Creek Cherokee advocate Annette Price. 

“[We’re here] to show solidarity by bringing truth about the gentleman displayed by this monument in Richmond,” said one Wolf Creek representative.  

The protest occurred in the wake of Mayor Levar Stoney’s Oct. 10 announcement that the City of Richmond would join the growing list of cities and states that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. 

“I feel prideful because I’m from Richmond,” said V, a Cultural Roots protester. “At least we’re opening our eyes to the bigger picture.”

However, Bolin still felt that more action was needed — beginning with the removal of the Columbus statue.

“If Stoney says this is Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Vanessa Bolin, “unless he takes things like this [statue] down in this city… he’s part of the problem.” 

Photos by Jonah Schuhart

Jonah Schuhart

Jonah Schuhart

Jonah Schuhart is a Senior Broadcast Journalism Student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jonah hopes to use his work to spread goodwill and a positive message. Despite this healthy outlook, he survives solely on a destructive diet of Japanese action games and Cheetos.

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