MIAMI – The death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer sparked worldwide protests against racism that now include the vandalism of monuments linked to racism.
Some of the monuments destroyed honored colonialists who contributed to the enslaving of native inhabitants, British and Dutch traders who profited from the enslaving of Africans and military generals who defended the institution of slavery in the United States.
“If I was young, I would be there. I would help them take those down,” Carmen Lopez, a domestic worker who was born in Guatemala and lives in Miami, said in Spanish. “Columbus is not a hero. He was an Italian who stole our gold and turned children into slaves.”
Lopez said the few men who damaged two monuments in downtown Miami are representative of the frustration of many. Videos released on Thursday show officers and vandals violently clashing in downtown Miami.
For some Central Americans like Lopez, the monuments glorify the idea of European superiority. Despite the invigorated outrage during Black Lives Matter protests, some argue there is an educational value to the monuments near Bayside Marketplace.
“The only way that we can move forward as a society is to learn from our past, and that’s both the positive and the negative,” said John Quick, a local attorney who serves as the chair of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board.
David McCallister has devoted his life to protecting the “cultural heritage” of The Confederate States of America, the slave-holding states that wanted to separate from the U.S. over the expansion of slavery. The states relied heavily on a plantation system that was dependant on slavery.
“There is no right not to be offended, but if there is free speech, then all speech is equally valid,” said McCallister, who lives in Hillsborough County. In the U.S., there are limits to free speech when it comes to inciting imminent lawless action.
The 13 Confederacy states were Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri. McCallister has mostly focused on protecting tributes to Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart.
Before institutionalized slavery in Florida, Juan Ponce de Leon established Spanish Florida. And just like Christopher Columbus, who enslaved some of the native inhabitants of the West Indies, De Leon also promoted the brutal oppression of natives.
“Criminals shouldn’t have monuments,” Lopez said.
Vandals target monuments around the world:
- Edward Colston made his fortune as slave trader in the 17th century.
- Cecil Rhodes made his fortune from abusing workers at gold and diamond mines.
- Henry Dundas delayed the abolition of the slave trade.
- Robert Milligan exploited slaves at his sugar plantations in Jamaica.
- Robert Baden-Powell was a racist who expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler.
- William Gladstone’s father was a prominent slave owner.
- Winston Churchill expressed racist views.
- Jean-Baptist Colbert drafted the “Black Code” to regulate slavery in French colonies.
- Indro Montanelli had a 12-year-old Ethiopian bride when he was a soldier during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia.
- King Leopold II enslaved people in Congo.
- Jan Pieterszoon Coen, also known as the “Butcher of Banda,” was a leader in the Dutch East India Company, which was involved in the slave trade.