The San Jose Arts Commission is calling for the removal of the Thoman Fallon statue

A controversial statue of a former San Jose mayor and captain in the Mexican-American War is a step closer to being carved after the city’s Arts Commission on Monday night approved the removal.

After months of gathering public input and hearing from historians, the art committee unanimously recommended that San Jose officials remove the Thomas Fallon statue from its prominent downtown San Jose location on St. Louis. James street and put it in storage. The City Council will make the final decision on whether to follow the Commission’s recommendation at its meeting on 9 November.

“The fact that this piece is causing so much unrest for so many – those of you who have made this city what it is – is unacceptable to me,” said Commissioner Audrey Rumsby. “Mig For me, this is a very simple decision.”

Commissioner Richard James, who said the idea of ​​hiding art and history was typically “repulsive” to him, acknowledged that the play had “turned into a controversial and unwelcome symbol.”

Under the Commission’s recommendation, the approximately £ 12,000 work of art will be permanently retained unless a historical museum or academic institution is interested in displaying it solely for educational purposes. If that day occurs, the city will be required to undergo a full public review process to approve the statue’s new purpose. It would never be allowed to be reinstalled in public space in San Jose.

“If there is a future date where it can be displayed in an appropriate context in a fuller history of an external entity, says a historical museum of some kind, then it should be available for that purpose,” said Commissioner Charlie McCollum. “But until then, I think it’s time for it to hide.”

Despite some opponents’ concerns that the statue would remain on display, Kerry Adams Harper, cultural director of San Jose, said the city is unlikely to receive any immediate interest – or interest at all – from outside agencies to display the statue.

“The reality is that this work of art is very large; it is not very portable; it needs to be reconstructed when it is reinstalled, ”she said. “… The whole process will be quite expensive and I would not expect it to be something the city would choose to pay for unless there was some form of external funding or organization.”

Bronze statue of Thomas Fallon depicts a little-known event during the Mexican-American War in which Capt. Fallon and another rider on horseback in 1846 hoisted the American flag in San Jose as a symbol that the United States was claiming California and large parts of the southwest from Mexico.

The benefits of the statues have been debated since the day members of the community were told about it back in the 80s, but the case was put back in focus last year amid calls for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd.

The statue, ordered in 1988 under then-mayor Tom McEnery without any public trial, was in stock for about a decade due to protests from the community before it was finally installed in 2002. Within the last year, people have spray-painted the statue, sprayed the one with red paint to look like blood on Fallon’s hands and tried to light it.

Opponents of the statue claim that it serves as a symbol of imperialism and a celebration of the subjugation of Mexicans and Indians. During an emotional forum earlier this year, opponents argued that the statue celebrated “oppression”, “racism”, “White supremacy” and even “genocide”.

“We had broad support 30 years ago and we continue to have broad support,” resident Kathy Napoli said at Monday’s art committee meeting. “It is not only the Latin community that supports this issue of removing the statue. It is a large group of our society that believes that it should not be where it is. ”

However, some historians dispute the true nature and facts related to Fallon and the extent of his involvement in the Mexican-American War.

Local historian April Halberstadt presented a 14-page report to the commission in hopes of proving that Fallon was not involved in the genocide of Indians and urged commissioners to keep the statue in place.

“Only perseverance and continued discussion will give the San Jose community a reasonable solution to the deep-seated accident we have now heard,” she said. Only accurate information based on truth can make a difference. We can not change history. We can find peace. ”

Although Mayor Sam Liccardo also said he felt there was some widespread misinformation circulating about the actual event depicted by the statue, he requested that the statue be removed in February and said it was time for the city to “ went on”.

Taking down the statue will require the closure and closure of a traffic lane on St. James Street, jack hammering of the concrete foundation, operating a crane to remove it and transport it for storage. The estimated value of the statue – $ 6,000 – and the estimated value of smelting the bronze and selling it are not enough to cover the cost of removing it, which comes with an estimated cost of up to $ 150,000, according to the city.

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