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Columbus Bashing - San Jose City Hall Statue Destroyed
By Julian Coman in Paris

Preface: As a result of the efforts of Mr. Monica, and the members of UNICO / San Jose, charges against Michael Cosner, the destroyer of the marble life size statue of Columbus at City Hall, have been increased from $4,000 bail and suspicion of Vandalism to $50,000  bail, and charges of a hate-crime, one felony vandalism, one felony structure, and illegal entry and endangerment. 

Interestingly enough, an Editor of the San Jose Mercury newspaper, a Native American and former Columbus hater, deplores the incident in an Editorial.

The News Article follows after the Editorial.


EDITORIAL
The opinion of the Mercury News

WE'RE STILL HERE
By Travis Armstrong

I STILL can remember spitting on the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville.  It was a youthful indiscretion that today both shames and emboldens me. The church he rests in is a monument to Spain's New World exploits.  I was overcome by its multitude of gold crosses and trinkets made from  the plundered riches of Latin and South America.

The lavish objects made me think of my own tribe, the once mighty Chippewa  people of the Upper Midwest and southern Canada. Now we're relegated to scattered reservations and villages. My family lives in falling-down little houses that make America's ghettos and barrios look deluxe. And daily  subsistence comes from hand-outs -- welfare checks, food stamps, free school lunches, WIC and government commodities.

The emotion of seeing the tomb of Columbus overtook me. Spitting in this sacred place was the only way I could say: "We're still here. You haven't  won." Random acts of political vandalism aimed at the explorer continue across America. The road sign on Interstate 10 in Santa Monica -- declaring the road  the Christopher Columbus Transnational Highway -- regularly gets splattered with red paint. His sculpture in Washington's Union Station, blocks from the Capitol, habitually is doused with blood.

Thursday the San Jose police arrested a man for reportedly taking a sledgehammer to the marble Columbus statue in the lobby of City Hall. "Genocide," the suspect yelled. "This man rode our backs. This man murdered us."

Hundreds of years of American culture manufactured this misguided navigator into a symbol of discovery and civilization. But in 1992 tribal people in North and South America made it clear that he wasn't all that. We turned the big party planned for the 500th anniversary of his voyage into a somber re-examination of the legacy.

Nearly a decade later, tribes have moved on. They are focusing on economic endeavors and espousing self-reliance. Casinos, hotels and convention centers on tribal lands have helped many Indian governments ease the poverty. Others are looking to better manage their natural resources. Some are pouring profits into educating their people, at all levels.

My tribe helped send me to graduate school to study anthropology. We'd be prepared if some archaeologist or physical anthropologist tries to scurry away our history in the name of science. And casino dollars helped me pay for hree years of law school.

Today I'm perhaps the only member of a federally recognized tribe working as an editorial writer at one of the nation's 40 biggest papers. That's a pathetic statistic. But tribal members are faring better in other professions, from medicine to politics.

We're learning that education and hard work are a better way to say "We're still here." We don't need to hack off the legs and hands of a sad old statue at City Hall.

Travis Armstrong, a member of the Pillager and Leech Lake Reservation bands of the Minnesota Chippewa, is a Mercury News editorial writer.


Published Friday, March 9, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
Screaming man smashes City Hall statue
PASSERBY INTERVENES AS POLICE DRAW GUNS IN VANDALISM CASE
By Rodney Foo, Mercury News

A man with a sledgehammer attacked a marble statue of Christopher Columbus in the lobby of San Jose City Hall before dozens of horrified onlookers Thursday until he was arrested by officers at gunpoint.

"Genocide!" yelled the suspect, identified as James Michael Cosner, 31, of  Santa Cruz. ``This man rode our backs! This man murdered us!'' Columbus' role in history -- once seemingly secure as the discover of America -- has now become a matter of cultural debate. The explorer has been condemned by some native people of the Americas as an exporter of genocide who brought on the destruction of pre-Columbian cultures.

As shards of marble from the life-size statue flew and the dull crack of the hammer echoed in the lobby, passerby Jaime Nava approached the man and tried to talk him into stopping.

"That's not the answer! Stop! Stop!" Nava said as Cosner held the sledgehammer back for another swing.

But Cosner continued, breaking the legs and the right hand off the statue and causing other damage to the figure. The top of a scroll the explorer held was shattered.

The statue, made out of seven types of marble, remained upright, supported by the flowing stone cape that draped its back.

As Nava tried to calm Cosner, plainclothes officer Chris Galios, Mayor Ron Gonzales' bodyguard, arrived and tried to persuade the suspect to put the hammer down.

The hammer went down after three uniformed officers came through the front door with their guns drawn. Nava used his body to shield Cosner, who had backed against a wall.

As officers handcuffed Cosner, he told them: "I'm not fighting. I'm very calm. I'm very calm." Shaken after the encounter, Nava said he interceded because, "I didn't want him to hurt himself." But witnesses were worried for the safety of Nava and others. One person was  injured -- a woman running from the lobby slipped and fell, breaking her arm.

"I thought the guy was going to take the sledgehammer to somebody's head," said Jill Escher, who was at City Hall for a meeting. After Cosner, who was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of vandalism, was hustled away, the mayor arrived to inspect the damage. "Obviously, he's a frustrated person,'' Gonzales said of the suspect, "and  I'm disappointed he took his emotions out on the statue.'' Gonzales said he would ask administrators to look into replacing the statue, which was to be moved to the new City Hall downtown.

The statue of Columbus was dedicated Oct. 12, 1958. The pedestal on which it stands says the sculpture was "sponsored by the Civic Club and the Italo-American societies of San Jose as a gesture of goodwill between the two countries."



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