• Clodagh Meaney

16,000 people sign petition to replace Christopher Columbus statue with a Marsha P. Johnson statue

The statue currently stands in the activist's hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

By Clodagh Meaney

Over 16,000 people have signed a petition to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus with a statue of Marsha P. Johnson.

The petition, created by Celine Da Silva, calls for the statue located in Elizabeth, New Jersey to be replaced with a dedication to LGBT+ activist Marsha P. Johnson.

Marsha, who died in July 1992, was born in 1945, and raised in Elizabeth.

She was a central figure in the 1969 Stonewall riots which saw the beginning of gay liberation and the commencement of Pride marches across the world.

"The appropriateness of celebrating Christopher Columbus is something that has become more popular discourse in recent years. Although it is widely taught that Columbus 'discovered' the Americas, he could not have 'discovered' land that was already occupied by indigenous groups," the petition states.

"Many believe celebrating Columbus is glorifying European colonialism."

"Columbus is not a figure to be celebrated, as he enslaved and killed the Taíno. Him and his men also sexually abused Taíno women and girls, some as young as 9 years old," the statement said, continuing: "He was even arrested in his own time for crimes he committed against Spanish colonists, which included flogging and executions without trial."

"For these reasons, the statue of Christopher Columbus in Elizabeth should be removed and replaced with a monument to someone who is deserving of being celebrated, Marsha P. Johnson."

"Marsha was revered and was an inspiration to many in the LGBT+ community."

"She was a part of the Gay Liberation Front and staged a sit-in protest at NYU when the administration cancelled a dance sponsored by gay organisations. She also co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with her close friend Sylvia Rivera," the statement explained.

"They established a shelter for homeless, gay and trans kids called the STAR house, where they provided shelter, food, clothing and emotional support. She was referred to as “Saint Marsha” because of the things she did for New York’s LGBT+ community.

"We should commemorate Marsha P. Johnson for the incredible things she did in her lifetime and for the inspiration she is to members of the LGBT+ community worldwide, especially black trans women," the petition statement concluded.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that East River Park in Brooklyn would be renamed after Marsha, it is the first New York state part to be named after an LGBT+ person.

Marsha died in a suspected murder following the New York Pride parade in 1992.

Her death was initially ruled a suicide, but a 2017 documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson shed light on the theory that her death was likely murder after she was found drowned in the Hudson river.

This year, New York pride celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The event has been cancelled, however parade Grand Marshal, Schitt's Creek star Dan Levy, will honour front line workers in a TV broadcast in partnership with NY Pride.

The programme will feature performances from Janelle Monáe, Deborah Cox, Billy Porter, Luisa Sonza, and more.

© 2020 by EMPWR

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