Up in marijuana-smoke-shrouded Humboldt County, California, Jeffrey Lebowski’s peers have decided that a statue of William McKinley, a president most Americans have basically forgotten, has got to go. The charges against McKinley evidently pertain to the United States’ acquisition of certain Spanish colonies, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, after the war with Spain.
A bronze statue of President William McKinley has held court over the picturesque town square of Arcata, Calif. for more than a century. It will soon be torn down.
The 8 1/2-foot monument and a nearby plaque have long been a point of contention among Arcata residents, some of whom say McKinley’s expansionist policies were racist toward indigenous people. During his presidential tenure at the turn of the 20th century, McKinley annexed tribal lands in the western U.S. and Hawaii in the name of Manifest Destiny.
In a 4-1 vote on Wednesday, Arcata City Council decided to tear down the McKinley statue and place it into storage. The only dissenting vote came from councilmember Michael Winkler, who proposed letting the public decide via ballot measure.
A 1963 plaque that denotes the historic status of a town square structure, the Jacoby Building, will also be removed. The plaque includes offensive wording referring to a “time of Indian troubles.” It will be replaced with a new marker designating the historical significance of the building – known locally as the Jacoby Storehouse – and the region’s indigenous history.
Many of those in attendance spoke during the public comment portion of the gathering or sent letters to City Council voicing their thoughts on the issue. Some applauded the push to remove the statue, citing McKinley’s imperialist legacy and lack of ties to the city.
“The statue doesn’t symbolize what we want in our living room, the center of our plaza, to symbolize,” said councilmember Susan Ornelas, per the North Coast Journal.