Two Republican state senators asked the Minnesota Historical Society to repair and restore a Christopher Columbus statue that was torn down outside the Minnesota Capitol three weeks ago.
Although the incident took place in broad daylight and was recorded by countless news stations and reporters, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said last week the investigation remains ongoing.
Minnesota law vests the Minnesota Historical Society with “final authority to approve or reject the removal of the statue,” Sens. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) and Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) said in a recent letter to Kent Whitworth, director and CEO of the Historical Society.
“It is clear to us that although the statue has been moved to another location under the control of state authorities, the Historical Society has not provided the approval required under M.S. 138.68 for the removal to this location,” states the letter.
The letter argues that the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning (CAAP) Board does not need to grant the Historical Society permission to restore the statue, since its removal was never authorized in the first place.
“We are troubled to see that the Historical Society website entry for the statue seems to suggest that before the statue is replaced on its plinth, the CAAP Board must approve that step. We fail to see how that step is required where the Historical Society has not yet provided the approval required under law for the removal of the statue from the plinth,” says the letter.
The letter concludes by asking that the statue “be repaired and replaced on its original plinth and site.”
“We would like you to inform us how you intend to proceed with regard to this matter. We do not believe that you are required to wait for CAAP Board approval before taking action to ensure that the statue is returned to its legally required location,” the letter states.
Two #MNSenate committee chairs (Nelson & Ingebrigtsen) write the Minnesota Historical Society, asking when Christopher Columbus is going to be placed back on his Capitol pedestal. They say they see no need for the CAAP Board to approve the step. #mnleg pic.twitter.com/KARANcOc1X
— Kevin Featherly (@kevinfeatherly) July 2, 2020
The law in question grants the Minnesota Historical Society “final authority over the disposition of any monuments, memorials or works of art removed from the State Capitol or the Capitol grounds.”
Both the Historical Society and CAAP Board are required to “approve the design, structural composition, and location of all monuments, memorials or works of art presently located in the public and ceremonial areas of the State Capitol.” However, no monument can be relocated, removed, altered, or repaired “in any way without the approval of the Minnesota State Historical Society.”
Nelson said the vandals should “not get a pass on tearing down a statue because they do not like it,” noting that their actions were “a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine or five years in prison.”
“Minnesota cannot continue down a path of disorder, we must return to a system that does not rely on violence or destruction,” Ingebrigtsen said in a press release. “Regarding the statue of Christopher Columbus that was torn down at the Capitol, the Lt. Governor and protesters can’t just remove it because they feel that their actions are justified. Minnesota has clear procedures they and everyone in this state need to abide by, whether you’re on the right or the left. [Exceptions] can’t be made on a case by case basis, and we can’t allow favoritism in this state.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Christopher Colombus Statue Removal” by Tony Webster. CC BY 2.0.