Vandals target Christopher Columbus statue in Providence

Spray paint was found on a Christopher Columbus statue in Providence, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (WJAR)

A statute of Christopher Columbus in Providence was vandalized on the federal holiday that marks the Italian explorer's arrival in the Americas in 1492.

Red and black paint was discovered Monday on the statue at the corner of Elmood and Lexington avenues.

The vandalism included an expletive followed by Columbus' name.

Emily Crowell, a spokesperson with Mayor Jorge Elorza's office, told NBC 10 News that their office is working to have the graffiti removed.

"The Providence Police are aware of the vandalism and are investigating," Crowell said.

During the afternoon, city workers finished power-washing the statue and successfully removed the paint.

Still, some say the sight of the statue has caused them negative emotions through the years.

“It was built on the graves of Native Americans,” Darrell Waldon of the Rhode Island Regional Indian Council said. “I never had a lot of love for the statue as a Native American growing up in this area. I don't believe there is one Native American statue in Rhode Island.”

Historical documents agree, noting that Columbus used violence and slavery to overthrow Native Americans, including Darrell's ancestors.

“You know, they went out and shot and murdered and killed us,” Waldon said.

Others shared similar sentiments.

“We did come into this country and kill all the natives, said Michael Purcell, who works nearby.

But Purcell doesn’t agree with vandalism.

“I get their point, I just don't think it's the way to do it,” he said.

Larry Loverde, who also works in the area, agreed.

“I think the message is valid,” he said. “This is just a terrible way to do it.”

But Waldon defended the actions.

“Sometimes when you're not heard the voices get a little louder and the actions get a little bit crazy,” he said.

It isn’t the first statue of Columbus that took a hit, as two similar statues in Connecticut were also vandalized during the weekend. The city moved in swiftly to wash away the message of hate.

A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day is gaining momentum.

But the gesture to recognize victims of European colonialism also has outraged Italian-Americans. They said eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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