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Take it Down 

Editor:

I urge the Arcata City Council to approve the removal of the McKinley statue from the center of the Arcata Plaza ("A Monumental Decision," Dec. 7). Why?

1.) President McKinley represented a set of values in a particular point in time, values that no longer represent the majority of the people in Arcata. It is well past time for an update.

2.) The city can re-gain its historic, non-political centerpiece of a gazebo. During farmers' markets, the band can play in the gazebo, leaving more room for dancing and food vendors. It would be where children meet Santa Claus and where other public events are centered.

3. Re-brand the city from marijuana to something new. In this time of #METOO, how about honoring women? I suggest that we install two statues of outstanding women on each corner of the Plaza.

According to a March 4, 2016, article in the Smithsonian TeenTribune, of the estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historic figures in the U.S., only 394 depict women. The article further states that New York City, itself, has only five public statues of historic women. Erecting eight statues of women could mean that Arcata would have the largest concentration of statues honoring women of any city in the U.S. What could that mean for tourism? The types of small business that may spring up? Which luminaries may decide to visit here?

Candidates that come to mind are a Wiyot woman, Michelle Obama, Julia Butterfly Hill, Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Rachel Carson, Betty Chinn, Margaret Sanger, etc. But this will be for the community to decide.

As a professional fundraiser who has raised $2.5 million, I volunteer to raise the funds for this project.

So, madams mayor and vice-mayor, do we honor women or continue on with 19th century values?

Fhyre Phoenix, McKinleyville

Editor:

President McKinley represents three things that have brought death and destruction to Indigenous Peoples and other people of color. His ties to imperialism, colonialism and genocide are not because of vague and illogical connections made to deeds committed by other leaders but because he himself committed them as well. These modes of U.S. conduct would later be referenced by Hitler as something to emulate.

McKinley illegally annexed Hawaii, forcing governance on a nation that did not consent but, rightly, feared a blood bath if they resisted. U.S. corporate and military interests prevailed at the expense of all else. More at www.culturalsurvival.org.

McKinley sent U.S. troops to the Philippines when its people would not consent to possession and exploitation. The orders were to kill everyone over 10. At least hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were killed.

With racial violence at its height in the South, McKinley, like others, was complicit with his failure to even attempt federal intervention into states and counties that condoned lynching and other sadistic acts as a form of social control.

McKinley played his part in the genocide of Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. The Curtis Act of 1898 was passed, which violated existing treaties with the goal to take power, governance, land and livelihood from the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole and Cherokee.

Progressive and informed citizens have an obligation to consider our local history of genocide and the impact of this symbol which is situated at a site where Indigenous Peoples were bought and sold, many of whose names and stories are known by their family members alive today. The plaque and its reference to "Indian troubles" is just another example of this ideology. Please connect the dots, care about what you are learning and ask the city of Arcata to remove this statue.

Joel Morrison, McKinleyville

Editor:

I am writing in response to the Journal's Dec. 7 cover story about the Arcata City Council's public study session on Dec. 4 to gather public opinion about whether or not the statue of President McKinley in the Arcata Plaza and the Jacoby Building plaque should be moved, supplemented with historical context or left as is.

I attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the removal of both, as did many others. The article and the city council both characterize the issue as two-sided, which is technically true. There were people who spoke in opposition to moving the statue or plaque (e.g. "leave our statue alone"). There was also a man who characterized those of us in favor of moving or changing these reminders of United States colonialism, imperialism and genocide as akin to the Taliban. Really? At 67 years of age, I am sick, tired and angry about being characterizes as somehow "un-American" or unpatriotic or like a terrorist when I exercise my constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly to argue in favor of or against an issue of personal, social and/or governmental concern.

I don't question the patriotism or rights of those who would argue that the statue and plaque should remain, so, dammit, don't question mine! I do, however, question the hearts and minds of people who know what these remnants stood and stand for — white people's history of debasement, dehumanization, enslavement and genocide of people of color.

I, and others who feel similarly, acknowledge that history of traumatic engagement for purposes of domination and destruction of individuals and whole societies with deep sorrow and commitment to live with others in a way that does not cause trauma to others. So, my question to those who want these symbols of white supremacy to remain, is this: What do you see when you look at the statue and plaque? What do you hear?

I heard what you heard, I saw what you saw. How can you then conclude that the pain and fear that is alive today in the ancestors of the murdered and enslaved is not worthy of immediate and reparative action by the Arcata City Council for the sake of their and our humanity? It is always the right time to do the right thing.

Meg Stofsky, Eureka

Editor:

Thank you to the North Coast Journal for covering some of the community work being done to remove racist symbols from the Arcata plaza.

At the study session hosted by the Arcata City Council at the D Street Neighborhood Center last Monday, there were 43 speakers during the public comment period. Thirty-five of them spoke out in support of the removal of the McKinley statue and the plaque describing the genocide of local Indigenous Peoples as "Indian troubles." This group of people ranged in age from 6 years to elderly and included Indigenous Peoples, people of color and their supporters. Two people expressed no opinion, as they were there on behalf of a historical society and were offering research resources. Six people (five men and one woman) advocated to keep the McKinley statue.

Of these people, one horrifically suggested that his fellow residents speaking out for removal of racist symbols were akin to "the Taliban" and another called her fellow residents of all ages "youngsters" and said their opinions should not count, as she believed they do not pay property taxes as she does.

A number of Arcata City Council members have expressed that they are hearing from "so many" Arcata residents that "just love McKinley" and want his statue to remain, so we call on all community members who want to stand on the right side of history to please call, email or meet with members of the Arcata City Council and explain why it is not OK to maintain a statue in the center of a town square that is of a person responsible for death and destruction of people of color, nor is it acceptable to keep a plaque up that refers to the genocide of Indigenous Peoples as "Indian troubles." 

Kathleen Lowder, McKinleyville

Editor:

I attended the Dec. 4 meeting on the Arcata Plaza plaque and statue and it was so clear to me how strong the historic arguments for statue removal were in comparison to the statements of those wanting to keep the monument.

The arguments for maintaining Mr. McKinley's place on the plaza were founded on childhood nostalgia, an odd version of martyrdom (because he was assassinated), disdain for students, young people and non-property-holders and a very far-fetched patriotic call to "honor the veterans." The arguments for removal, on the other hand, cited documented human rights abuses in the Philippines (torture, categorization of children as acceptable military targets, collective and indiscriminate punishment), war crimes and illegal, immoral and unconstitutional imperialist actions spearheaded by McKinley during his tenure as president.

Although we hear appeals to not erase history, it is apparent that nostalgia is the primary motivating force for the pro-statue crowd. The reality of what McKinley's actions represent in the histories of the Caribbean and the Pacific is much, much darker and more violent than the sun-drenched picnics and farmers' markets we all remember. I urge the good people of Arcata to educate themselves about the real histories of Hawaii, the Philippines, the Marianas, Puerto Rico and Cuba and then weigh all the theft, death and continued suffering against our own local rosy recollections.

As a historic figure representing the big business, industrialized power and a globalized version of White Supremacy so accepted and unquestioned that it hardly had to be written into his speeches, McKinley seems like an odd candidate for anybody in our progressive pro-justice, pro-equality, pro-local town to defend.

Louis Gordon, Eureka

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