Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Onondaga Nation and City of Syracuse embrace dismissal of Columbus statue case

A look at Columbus Circle in Syracuse at the end of July.
John Smith WAER News
What's next in the debate about the Columbus Statue in Syracuse


The long and bitter debate over the future of the Columbus statue in Syracuse appears headed to the state’s highest court, the court of appeals. reports that the Columbus Monument Corporation plans to appeal a recent appellate court decision that clears the way for the city to relocate the statue. According to court documents, the appellate judges ruled that the group’s case lacks standing because a final decision to remove the monument hadn’t even gone through the steps needed for approval. The court of appeals ruling dismissing the suit potentially paved the way for the statue's removal from what is now called Columbus Circle, but city and other officials want to reform it as heritage Park, honoring all cultures that play int the area's history.

Original Story

The Attorney for the Onondaga Nation is applauding the dismissal of a lawsuit that aimed to stop the City of Syracuse from moving the Columbus statue. The Columbus Monument Corporation has been fighting the plan in court for years. Several meetings led by the Mayor’s Office showed widespread support to relocate the statue over Christopher Columbus’ ties to colonialism and slavery. Joe Heath says it’s long past time for the statue to move from its location on Montgomery Street across from the county courthouse. But he anticipates the legal fight might not be over.

“If that’s the case, we will again, enter an amicus brief in support of the city.”

Heath thinks because of the case being thrown out last week by a higher court, any additional legal challenge stands a slim chance of advancing. He says the case has been so far argued based upon very narrow, technical, contract legal grounds.

A closer view of the Columbus statue in Syracuse.
John Smith / WAER News
A closer view of the Columbus statue in Syracuse.

“… But, Onondaga’s interest is much broader than that. This is an important, cultural, historic step for our community to take… and that’s why the nation keeps trying to have its say heard. And also to limit or end the harm, the historic trauma that this statue creates for its people.”

In a statement from the Mayor’s Office, Ben Walsh calls the Appellate Division’s ruling a win for the whole community. He goes on to say the goal is to create a public space that is welcoming to all and honors Italian American heritage, without a symbol of colonialism. WAER News reached out for comment from the Columbus Monument Corporation, but didn’t provide a response in time for this story.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.