House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that “people will do what they do” in response to a question about a Christopher Columbus statue being toppled in Baltimore, her hometown.
“I don’t even have my grandmother’s earrings,” said Pelosi before adding: “I’m more interested in what people have accomplished” and that “I think that it’s up to the communities to decide what statues they want to see.”
The California Democrat was asked about whether the statue should have been ordered removed by city officials or forcefully taken down by rioters.
“Shouldn’t that be done by a commission or the city council, not a mob in the middle of the night throwing it into a harbor?” a reporter asked her in the news conference. “People will do what they do,” Pelosi responded, without elaborating.
Earlier this week, the statue was toppled and thrown into the Baltimore Inner Harbor by Black Lives Matter protesters in the latest incident of statue vandalism. The statue was erected in the “Little Italy” neighborhood in 1984.
Columbus’s legacy has come under fire in recent decades from left-wing activists and some college professors, who have stated that he exploited, enslaved, and killed Native Americans. Columbus is credited with sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe in 1492, making landfall on Oct. 12 of that year, which is now known as Columbus Day.
Protesters pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, Md., on July 4, 2020. (Courtesy of Louis Krauss)
“I do think that from a safety standpoint it would be a good idea to have it taken down if the community doesn’t want it,” Pelosi said about more statues being removed elsewhere. “I don’t know that has to be a commission but it could be a community view.”
But other officials, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, criticized the toppling of the statue.
Hogan, a Republican, wrote on Twitter that protests and dialogue on removing statues and monuments are fine, but “lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of public property [are] completely unacceptable.”
While we welcome peaceful protests and constructive dialogue on whether and how to put certain monuments in context or move them to museums through a legal process, lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of public property is completely unacceptable. https://t.co/6i1RdqpcHN
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) July 5, 2020
A spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a Democrat, said the mayor doesn’t support “the defacing of the statues nor the destruction of property,” according to CBS Baltimore.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went a step further and accused Pelosi of encouraging people to break laws.
“Her job is to write laws. Instead, she encourages mobs to break them. She is complicit with criminal activity, plain and simple,” he said, according to Fox News.
Pelosi also called for the removal of statues of Confederate figures from the Capitol building in Washington.
“I think that it’s very important that we take down any of the statues of people who committed treason against the United States of America as those statues exist in the Congress… of the halls of Congress,” she said in the news conference.
Pelosi, who is Italian-American, was born and raised in Baltimore. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was mayor of Baltimore from 1947 to 1959, and her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, was mayor of the city during the next decade.