PUEBLO, Colorado — Protesters in Pueblo who want the city's Christopher Columbus Monument removed met with the mayor Thursday to share their concerns. Mayor Nick Gradisar said after the meeting that the group plans to keep demonstrating.
"They made it clear to me that they're going to continue to protest, they made it clear to me that they think the city should take the statue down," Gradisar said.
The group members told the mayor they plan to keep those demonstrations peaceful. Gradisar thinks a public dialogue could help resolve the conflict between those who see Columbus as a traumatizing historical figure with those who see the monument as a part of Pueblo's cultural legacy.
"I want to be sure that we're not getting on the slippery slope, we want to be respectful of everybody's wishes heritage and desires," Gradisar said. "But it's a complicated issue that we're trying to work through a little bit."
The 115-year-old monument has a long cultural history in Pueblo. Documents from National Archives indicate the money for the monument was all privately raised. The monument was meant to be a unifying project to overcome anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant animosity of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The unveiling ceremony drew 7,500 hundred people to town including Governor Alva Adams for what was described as a multi-cultural celebration. The event led to the creation of Columbus Day as a state holiday.
Last Friday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal grants from communities who do not protect their statues and monuments. Gradisar explained that the Columbus Monument is under 24-hour surveillance.
"We don't have police officers there, stationed there, but we feel comfortable that we'll be able to identify anybody that tries to take it down or to vandalize it and my inclination would be to prosecute those people for violation."