The city of Camden said the statue in Farnham Park has “long pained residents of the community” and attempted to remove the structure on Thursday evening in advance of a planned protest at the site, according to Philadelphia’s CBS3.
But as city workers tried to remove the monument, demonstrators lopped off its head and hoisted it into the air before placing it on the statue’s base.
“Christopher Columbus to us, as Black Americans, represents a privatizer, a colonizer, a rapist and many other things,” Ronsha Dickerson told the outlet.
“So why we ask can’t it be a statue of the late Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X? Why can’t it be Dr. King? Why can’t it be Elijah Muhammad? Why can’t it be someone who has worked hard to help black people?”
The city also said “a plan to reexamine these outdated symbols of racial division and injustices” is overdue.
About 40 percent of Camden’s population is black or African American, according to Census figures. The city has been called one of the poorest in the nation.