WEST ORANGE — The township will remove its Christopher Columbus monument, Mayor Robert Parisi said Saturday, and find a “more appropriate message to replace it.”

Parisi, a lifelong West Orange resident, announced the decision in a video posted to his Facebook account.

Parisi said he spent days speaking with a lot of residents, including some involved with the organization that installed the monument and which has maintained it all these years.

"Support for the monument does not change the facts. The legend of Columbus does not match the history and today, the man and statues or monuments celebrating his life are divisive and a symbol of hate and oppression and cannot remain as part of our community," Parisi said in the video.

The West Orange monument is at the intersection of Valley Road and Kingsley Street.

The news comes just days after Camden protesters smashed and beheaded a Christopher Columbus statue Thursday, even after city officials were in the process of removing it.

In recent weeks, as Black Lives Matter demonstrations have swept the nation, communities have been tearing down Confederate monuments and flags. There also has been a fresh wave of scrutiny over the polarizing explorer, with objections raised to slavery and deadly contagious diseases that were forced upon native populations as European settlers arrived.

Other critics have said Christopher Columbus making landfalL in the Bahamas in 1492 was not actually the discovery of America, but the start of colonization.

As Jersey City is among NJ communities with remaining Columbus statues, there was an online petition collecting signatures Sunday to permanently remove the statue in Journal Square.

The bronze statue, mounted atop white marble, shows Columbus holding a cross in his left hand while pointing with his right. It was dedicated in October 1950, after being designed by sculptor Archimedes Giacomontonio of Jersey City, according to Jersey City University records. The petition is addressed to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and the City Council members.

In Philadelphia, another Columbus statue in the southern part of the city attracted an armed crowd over the weekend, some with baseball bats and at least a few with other weapons, who voiced intentions of it remaining in place.

Social media footage showed a large American and a separate Italian flag hanging from the fencing around the statue in Marconi Plaza.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted Sunday “We are aware of the groups of armed individuals ‘protecting’ the Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza. All vigilantism is inappropriate, and these individuals only bring more danger to themselves and the city.”

“We are also aware of an apparent assault caught on video tape, as well as possible restrictions placed on journalists filming the event. These incidents are under investigation at this time,” Kenney said.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also tweeted about the situation, writing "Hey, bat-wielders: Saying you are 'defending' something doesn't prove you really are. And using a bat —or anything else — for an illegal purpose (such as assaulting or threatening or harassing people) is a criminal act."

The controversy over Columbus also has extended to questioning the continued observance of an annual holiday in his honor. Last fall, Princeton joined Newark as the first two communities in New Jersey to mark Indigenous Peoples Day on what traditionally had been Columbus Day.

Princeton's mayor and municipal council passed a resolution in September that declared the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, out of observance of at least three Native American tribes with historic roots in New Jersey.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes Native Americans, who were the first inhabitants of the land that later became the United States of America.

Newark has been observing the newer holiday since 2017, when Mayor Ras Baraka signed an executive order to that effect.

For some New Jersey communities with strong Italian-American heritage, Columbus Day has lived on, with parades and festivals traditionally planned for the fall weekend.

In May 2019 in Bergen County, the Glen Rock Borough Council considered a request from several residents, before unanimously deciding to keep the traditional holiday on the calendar.

At the time, Mayor Bruce Packer said: “We move on with a much better respect and understanding of all sides of the issue, including the significance of this holiday to our Italian-American residents and neighbors that often goes well beyond the man that it is named for.”

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