SAN JOSE, CA — This statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus stands inside San Jose City Hall.
Since August, the Brown Berets of San Jose gathered over 2,000 signatures for its removal, because they view Columbus as a mass murderer and slave owner of Native Americans.
Last month, city officials agreed to move the statue — originally a gift from the Italian-American community in 1958 — but have not decided where.
Recently, Native Americans and their supporters gathered outside the city council meeting to remind them that they want an answer.
“We don’t want people who venture here, or vacation here to see the face of an oppressor when they step into our city. We don’t want the Ohlone people, the Natives here, this land belongs to them, to view that every time they go inside city hall,” said Beija Gonzalez. “So as long as it’s not in the public eye we don’t care where it goes.”
Filipino activists here say it was important to join the protest because of the shared historical similarities with Native Americans.
“We ourselves are a colonized people from the Spanish to the US, to the Japanese, and we have colonized indigenous people in our country right now, with the lumad in Mindanao,” said Katherine Nasol. “So we are standing in solidarity with them for Native self-determination.”
“We must continue to expose the history of Christopher Columbus. The reason why it’s a people’s council is this is the way things are supposed to be, how the people’s demands are being heard when the people are coming in together,” said John Patrick Sanchez.
This demonstration was also to tell city council members that they disapprove of the proposed building of a Google campus for 20,000 employees.
“The city of San Jose has this public land and instead of using the land to be a public benefit to get people off the streets, to get people housing, to get people education, whatever it may be the city is exclusively negotiating with the largest corporation in the world, with Google, to build a monstrosity that will decimate our communities,” says Andrew Lee.
Activists cite the gentrification of other bay area cities like San Francisco and Oakland after the influx of major tech corporations.
“Most people who live here aren’t techies. Most people who live here aren’t these capitalists,” Lee added. “Most people are everyday folks like me, like the viewers, like people’s friends, families, co-workers. We are the majority.”
Google and its buying partner have already spent over $144 million on estimated 19 parcels in the downtown area.