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Wilmington officials removed a statue of Christopher Columbus Friday and this weekend will remove the statue of Caesar Rodney from the city's landmark Rodney Square.
The move comes amid a nationwide reckoning over race and inequality. Some activists have targeted historical statues of Confederate figures and American colonists for what they say are celebrations of slavery and racism, and statues have come down either by protesters' hands or government officials' agreement.
Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a news release that the statues are being "removed and stored so there can be an overdue discussion about the public display of historical figures and events."
Officials said unspecified social media posts indicated "that individuals and groups are poised this weekend to damage or remove the statues." They did not publicly announce the Columbus statue's removal until it was in progress.
That statue is located on Pennsylvania Avenue just north of the Cool Spring neighborhood. It has been there since at least October 1957, according to News Journal archives.
An online petition to remove the statue, declaring that "celebrating Columbus is celebrating genocide," garnered close to 700 signatures this week.
A small, cheering crowd gathered for its removal, many of whom are residents at the Luther Towers senior apartments.
Linda Mcintyre, 71, sat in her wheelchair in the shade, cheering and raising her fists proudly as it was wheeled away moments later.
"I'm ready to see it go too."
"It's too much stuff going on in the world."
"I'm happy to see it come down because all the stuff that's going on right now. All these symbols that [represent] racism and slavery? It needs to go." Rodney, a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also a slaveowner.
“We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be, but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize,” Purzycki said in a news release. “We can determine together how we should proceed as a city when it comes to public displays."