Hearings begin for Indigenous men accused of damaging Tampa’s Christopher Columbus statue

The defense is considering presenting a motion to dismiss.

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click to enlarge Sheridan Murphy of Florida Indigenous Alliance speaks to a crowd before a hearing at a courthouse in downtown Tampa - Justin Garcia
Justin Garcia
Sheridan Murphy of Florida Indigenous Alliance speaks to a crowd before a hearing at a courthouse in downtown Tampa
Today, two Native American men went to a hearing in downtown Tampa to address the police department’s accusation that they committed crimes by splashing fake blood on a Christopher Columbus statue during a protest.

Last October during a demonstration at Columbus Statue Park on Bayshore Boulevard, several people helped drench the figure of Columbus in a liquid, which in past years has easily washed away after protests.

Activists from the event said that the “blood” was made of food coloring and water. But the Tampa Police Department claims that it needed the fire department’s help to wash the liquid away this time.

Officers didn’t charge anyone during the protest itself. Instead, cops pulled people over afterwards for alleged traffic violations—but didn’t issue citations. The men were identified during those traffic stops, and TPD waited over a month before charging them with misdemeanor criminal mischief for damage less than $200.
For Natives, Columbus symbolizes pedophilia, slavery, rape, and genocide. He also fed native babies to dogs in front of horrified parents. Despite 30 years of demanding the statue’s removal, Tampa’s Indigenous community has received no response from city officials.

Outside the George E. Edgecomb courthouse this afternoon, activists rallied in support of the Indigenous men facing the charges. Members of the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA) prayed, sang the American Indian Movement song and called for the charges to be dropped.

Sheridan Murphy of FIA said that for Native Americans, there has never been true justice for the suffering their people endured, and that TPD’s latest charges are just another example of the centuries-long attacks on Native people.

“We stand here today with our friends who are going to face that court hearing and a court trial later, where this system will try to criminalize them because they said, ‘Don't celebrate genocide,’” Murphy told a crowd of about 20 supporters.
During the pre-trial hearing, attorney Michelle Lambo—who represents one of the men that wish not to be named in this story out of concern for privacy—asked for another court date as the defense reviews evidence and considers a motion to dismiss the case.

The defense believes that the fake blood actually didn’t damage the statue. Lambo told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that after previous protests, the liquid has easily washed away in the rain.

On April 5, another hearing will be held to check in on the status of the case.

TPD has vehemently defended the statue in the past. During a protest in 2020, bicycle police surrounded the statue after protesters started throwing fake blood on it, leading to a tense standoff in the rain. No one was arrested at that protest.

But in 2021, the police didn’t show up at all as people covered the statue in blood.

In 2022, the police watched the protest from a parking garage across the street, then pulled people over afterwards to obtain their identities.

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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