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A fake pair of severed hands were placed on the statue of Christopher Columbus at the Inner Harbor.

Someone placed fake severed hands around the neck of a Christopher Columbus statue in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhood, bringing attention to the controversial explorer’s treatment of America’s indigenous population.

The hands, which had been removed by 5 p.m., were bloody and were draped in front of the Italian explorer’s statue sometime Monday.

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It was a clear move to bring attention to the way Columbus and his fellow sailors treated Native Americans when they landed on the continent in 1492.

Historians say that, after Columbus and his crew landed in what would become the Bahamas more than 500 years ago, the sailors kidnapped and enslaved the local population. Some who could not bring back a certain amount of gold had their hands cut off.

Groups have called for Columbus Day to be renamed “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and some local governments, such as Prince George’s County, have followed suit, signing a law to have the holiday renamed as Native Americans’ Day starting next year.

The Christopher Columbus monument at the intersection of Eastern Avenue and President Street at the Inner Harbor had a pair of fake severed hands draped around the neck of the statue in protest of Columbus Day.
The Christopher Columbus monument at the intersection of Eastern Avenue and President Street at the Inner Harbor had a pair of fake severed hands draped around the neck of the statue in protest of Columbus Day. (Lloyd Fox/The Baltimore Sun)

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day redirects our national attention away from this tragedy to instead honor the resilience of those who survived Columbus and his trail of violence,” said Elizabeth Rule, a postdoctoral fellow in American University’s Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies Collaborative and an enrolled citizen in the Chickasaw Nation.

However, there are some who say Columbus should still be lauded as a revolutionary, if flawed, explorer who connected the Eastern and Western hemispheres with his sailing.

Marc DeSimone of the Italian American Civic Club of Maryland said of whoever placed the hands on the statue, “they’re vandalizing a public statue on a national holiday.”

At one point, DeSimone posited that police might want to investigate the incident as a hate crime, asking what would’ve happened if “someone were to do something similar to another ethnic group.”

He later said he wasn’t a lawyer and it would be up to police to determine whether a hate crime had been committed, but he said, “I would definitely think they might want to investigate that.”

He said that while more facts have come out about Columbus’ treatment of the native people, it can be difficult to surmise which facts are verifiable.

“I know that that was a very violent time and over 500 years, it’s hard to get to the truth of what actually happened,” DeSimone said.

He also argued that “there were many atrocities on both sides. Not just the colonizers, but also on the part of the natives.”

He cited examples of cannibalism, as there is evidence of cannibalism among Aztecs and other indigenous people at that time.

“We admit that he’s a flawed hero ... in as much as all our heroes are flawed,” DeSimone said.

DeSimone acknowledged that he’d heard of the practice of having slaves’ hands cut off and said that, when Columbus left the continent, “he left people in charge that were very cruel to indigenous people.”

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But he said Columbus’ “courage in exploring” has created an undeniable impact on cultures throughout the world.

“He is the human being responsible for contact between the Eastern and Western hemispheres,” he said. “I think a lot of people focus on the bad things that happened.”

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