Paolino’s bid on Providence statue reignites Christopher Columbus controversy
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Joseph Paolino, former mayor of Providence, says he is one of two bids to buy the city’s Christopher Columbus Statue.
The statue was taken down in 2020 after being vandalized multiple times.
A representative of Paolino told ABC 6 News he bid $50,000 for the statue.
“I want to talk to Rhode Island School of Design,” Paolino explained. “I want to talk to local Italian American organizations, nonprofit organizations in our state and see where it can be preserved.”
The statue was made in Providence in 1893.
Paolino finished, “It’s been a symbol of Italian pride, and I don’t want to see anybody to take that pride and make the monument scrap metal.”
Symbols depicting Christopher Columbus have been lightning rod issues.
Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association sees the statue as a representation of Italian culture.
He asked, “Do we say that Christopher Columbus did everything perfect? No. Do we say that any historical figure did anything perfect? No. But he has a place in our culture that means something to us.”
Bella Noka, an elder of the Narragansett Tribe, called the glorification of Columbus a “great lie.”
She told ABC 6 Thursday, “You commit genocide, you rape, you murder, you steal our land, and then we have to sit there and watch you every day of your life as a statue being a heroic person?”
Paolino says he hopes the statue can be displayed, and the history of Italian and Native American culture can be highlighted.
Noka says the symbolism can be insulting to the Native American community.
She finished, “It’s their soft way of saying, ‘I’m going to put this in your face, and I don’t care what you say, it’s going to be there.'”
Mayor Smiley’s administration said a city board will have the final say on who decides the fate of the statue.