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7 arrested after Christopher Columbus statue vandalized in Miami

Christopher Columbus statue toppled

Seven people were arrested Wednesday after statues of Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorer Juan Ponce De Leon were vandalized in Miami, Florida, authorities said. Pictures show spray paint on the Columbus statue, with his hands and face in red. 

The images shared by the Miami Police Department show a plaque below the statue reading: "He dreamed greatly; he dared courageously; he achieved mightily; guided by the hand of God; he gave us a new world — America." In red paint over the plaque are a hammer and sickle, black power fists, "BLM," for Black Lives Matter, and "George Floyd," in white. 

The city's police department said in a press release that "a group of protesters" were seen on camera vandalizing the statue, along with the statue of De Leon.

"Miami police officers identified the suspects via surveillance cameras, and after giving an exact description of the suspects, our ground officers moved in and arrested the suspects who committed the vandalism," reads the press release.

Protest organizer Richard Dombroff told CBS Miami that the demonstration was peaceful before police arrived. "The police came to tackle and violently arrest a bunch of peaceful protesters," Dombroff said. 

The police said they were at the protest to find those responsible for vandalizing the statues. According to its statement, "while initiating the arrests" several protesters assaulted officers and damaged a police vehicle.

"We were able to arrest a total of 7 of the violent protesters. The peaceful protesters were not arrested," the press release said.

The monument is one of several Columbus statues to be defaced amid protests over George Floyd's death, police brutality and racial inequality. One of the first Europeans in the New World, Columbus is criticized for his violent treatment and killing of Native Americans. 

There is a movement across the U.S. to remove statues of slave owners and colonizers, and Confederate symbols.  

A group of protesters in St. Paul, Minnesota, pulled down a Columbus statue Wednesday outside the State Capitol, CBS Minnesota reports. Onlookers cheered as the statue came toppling down.

On Tuesday night, a statue of Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, was covered in paint, torn down and thrown into a lake. Another, in Boston, Massachusetts, this week was beheaded. 

In Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter Wednesday to the leaders of the Joint Committee on the Library requesting they act to remove 11 statues of Confederate soldiers and officials from the U.S. Capitol. Later in the day, protesters tore down a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.

A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was set to come down in Richmond, Virginia — once the Confederacy's capital — but a judge temporarily blocked the plan this week. The judge issued an injunction, saying it is in the public interest to await resolution of the case on the merits prior to removal of the statue, and preventing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's administration from removing the statue for 10 days. 

Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement that the governor's administration is still reviewing the order.

"Governor Northam remains committed to removing this divisive symbol from Virginia's capital city, and we're confident in his authority to do so," she said.

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