The Columbus monument in South Philadelphia’s Marconi Plaza was recently unboxed after Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ruled that the city has a “fiduciary duty to preserve that statue.” That was in December of last year. Now, six months later, the group that fought to free the statue from its wooden confines is suing Mayor Jim Kenney and members of the Philadelphia Historical Commission over their efforts to remove it.
The Friends of Marconi Plaza filed the lawsuit on May 25th, accusing the Philadelphia mayor, as well as Robert Thomas, Kimberly Washington, Daniel McCoubrey, Emily Cooperman, Jonathan E. Farnham, Kenneth Woodson, Ralph S. Pinkus, and Stephen Petit of misconduct, conspiring to abuse the legal process in an attempt to dismantle the statue.
“Acting through the Philadelphia Historical Commission (“PHC”) and the Philadelphia Board of Licenses & Inspection Review (the “Board”), Defendants abused and exceeded their legal authority in a malicious conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff and the citizens of Philadelphia of their civil rights,” the suit reads.
“Frankly, it’s shocking what took place here, and it’s a shocking disregard for their responsibilities,” said George Bochetto, the lead attorney for the plaintiff.
The monument to the Italian explorer has been standing in the City of Brotherly Love since 1876 when the city’s Italian American community donated the statue as a tribute from Italy to America in order to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ founding. It was sculpted out of Italian marble, with many Italians contributing money to its creation which had a total price tag of $18,000, including King Victor Emmanuel II.
The statue is a symbol of much more than Columbus’ discovery of the new world. Not only does his voyage represent our ancestors’ journey from Italy to the United States, but is also emblematic of the many other ethnic groups that chose to immigrate to this country with the goal of a better life for themselves and their families.
With this lawsuit, Philadelphia Italians are making it clear that they will hold public officials accountable for any attempts to attack Columbus and their heritage.