SAN ANTONIO – A protest at Columbus Park downtown Saturday drew dozens of demonstrators who want to see the statue of Christopher Columbus removed.
The city has a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, and, as of Saturday, a 10-person limit on groups in public parks to help combat the recent surge in cases of COVID-19. However, when asked about the new limit on gatherings at parks, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said police would not be enforcing that at demonstrations.
“We expect and hope that everybody will practice social distancing and wear masks to try to keep themselves healthy,” McManus said. “But as far as being able to exercise their first amendment rights, we’re going to allow that to happen, regardless of the ban.”
Though the protest was organized in opposition of the Columbus statue, demonstrators also made comments about police. A smaller group of armed men also gathered nearby, telling KSAT they were there to ensure a peaceful protest.
Numerous San Antonio police officers stood between the two groups, which were also separated by barricades.
The counter-demonstrators said some of them chambered rounds in their firearms during a moment when the demonstrators got close to them.
No shots were fired, though, and no arrests were made on either side.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino filed a council consideration request calling for the removal of the Columbus statue and the renaming of the park. Though the Christopher Columbus Italian Society has agreed to take back the statue, it remains in place.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg has said the issue must go through a process before the statue can be removed, including a discussion in the city council governance committee.
However, Trevino and supporters of the statue’s removal feel it should be down already.
“It’s a ridiculous process because it only takes – there are only five council people in it, and Councilman Trevino already got five city council people for his CCR,” Antonio Diaz, of the Texas Indigenous Council, said of sending the issue to the governance committee. “So to me, it’s ridiculous. You need five, you already got five. It should have been removed then.”
The statue was vandalized earlier this week with red paint. San Antonio police say that investigation is ongoing.