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Hundreds March Through Astoria Wednesday, Demand Christopher Columbus Statue Be Removed

March southward along Shore Boulevard (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

June 18, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

More than 400 protesters marched through Astoria Wednesday evening demanding that the Christopher Columbus statue on Astoria Boulevard be removed.

The protest, led by local group Justice for George Queens, said that the statue is offensive.

The organizers said that Columbus exploited the indigenous populations of the Americas and that public space should not be used to glorify him.

The group, which have organized other protests around Queens for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, met at the Astoria Park World War 1 Memorial on Shore Boulevard at around 5:30 p.m.

Demonstrators spoke to the crowd mainly about the struggles of black women and black trans women. One demonstrator, Mario Scott, read out the names of black trans women who have been killed over the last five years while a man played the violin in the background.

Another demonstrator sang the civil rights song, “Change is Gonna Come,” while the crowd kneeled.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris was in attendance at the memorial although he did not join protesters for the ensuing march.

At around 6:40 p.m. protesters turned their attention to the Columbus statue and began marching southward along Shore Boulevard.

The group was directed by cyclists and chief organizer Trasonia Abbott. Abbott was on foot with a bull horn and led several chants including “indigenous lives matter” and “these racist statues got to go.”

Other chants were focused at the police like “how do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D,” and “how do you spell murderer? N-Y-P-D.”

Protesters carried two large banners that read “black and indigenous solidarity,” and “stop the war on black America.”

Smaller signs read “Columbus = killer,” “black lives matter,” and “enough is enough.”

Other protesters made plenty of noise with drums and tambourines.

The protesters turned left onto Astoria Park South and were cheered on by onlookers while police officers blocked traffic to ensure the safety of the marchers.

The crowd made their way up as far as 31st Street and stopped in front of the Christopher Columbus statue on Astoria Boulevard.

The monument is located at Columbus Triangle, right off the Astoria Boulevard station and bordered by Astoria Boulevard South, Hoyt Avenue South, and 33rd Street. The statue was erected in 1941 but is currently ring-fenced due to on-going road works.

Columbus statues and other monuments across the nation have been in the spotlight recently following the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Critics believe they celebrate racial inequality and have called for the removal of statues.

Abbott told the crowd that Columbus was responsible for the genocide of almost 3 million people in Haiti.

“What are we celebrating?” she asked? “Are we celebrating death?”

The crowd then began calling for the statue to be removed.

Several other speakers took to the microphone and voiced their disgust for colonizers like Columbus.

One protester, who claimed to be of Taino descent – indigenous people of the Caribbean – was well-received by the crowd after he rapped:

“We call for the statue to fall,”

“So raise your fists, because we have a right to an existence,”

“Black Lives Matter.”

Some speakers called for the police and ICE to be abolished while another said she was against the capitalist system.

Musicians were then called upon to sing songs and the event wrapped up at around 8:30 p.m.

Protester sign at WW1 Memorial, Astoria Park, June 17, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post

Senator Mike Gianaris was in attendance (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

A protester holds a sign Columbus = Killer” (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post

Christopher Columbus statue on Astoria Boulevard (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Christopher Columbus statue is ring-fenced due to road works, June 17, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post (2)

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