ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s destruction of a Christopher Columbus statue that that had stood outside the Minnesota State Capitol since 1931. Urdahl, a former American history teacher of more than 30 years, has served the Capitol Restoration Commission, the Capitol Art Sub-Committee and continues to serve the Capitol Preservation Commission.
“For all of time, history has been commemorated and remembered through symbols such as monuments and statues. Through the years, the relevance and meaning behind those symbols may change and we should recognize that.
“But the destruction of these symbols is wrong. We cannot learn from – or change – the past by destroying it. To erase the image of Christopher Columbus from public view or from our history books does not change what he did. His accomplishments and his depredations remain, and we learn about the past from them.
“Ultimately, concerns for allowing this criminal destruction of property to take place are completely separate from the issue of whether a statue portraying Christopher Columbus – or any other depictions on state property – are appropriate.
“Those are discussions that can and should take place through proper, lawful channels. We have a procedure to address art on the Capitol grounds. The process is administered by the Capitol Area Preservation Board, chaired by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. This group has the power to add or remove artwork and statues from the capitol and the mall area, yet has not met in six months.
“It may be time to review items under their purview. But let’s not destroy art or other public property through unlawful acts of vandalism. Where does this stop? What is next? What if people with criminal intent take aim at the historic Capitol building itself?
“It makes much more sense to find a more appropriate venue for works that some may find offensive, as was done during the capitol restoration in recent years.”