PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland City Council and Lewis and Clark College will be calling for a public discussion to decide what the city should do with the five statues that were toppled and removed from Portland’s public spaces during the wave of social justice protests in 2020.
In a statement issued Wednesday by Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio, the Portland City Council announced that it has asked Lewis and Clark College and local educators to hold public-art discussions with residents starting in the spring of 2023. The discussions will center around the removed George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Harvey Scott, and ‘Promised Land’ statues. The input will also help shape how the city will display public art in the future.
“A public discussion is needed,” Rubio said. “Anything less and we will be debating these monuments for years to come — and possibly replicating the same processes that may result in predictable outcomes. A full vetting of all the very passionate and diverse opinions is required.”
In her statement, Rubio expressed that initiating the discussion process has been slow, but said that
“I recognize that this has taken longer than any of us would like to get to this point,” she said. Later in her statement, she added: “I appreciate the community’s patience as we ensure that we get this done right. The process and decisions we make need to honor the social justice movement that brought us the questions before us today.”
Before a decision is made, the city will research the historical significance of the statues and why they were initially displayed in Portland.
“The history represented by each of these monuments — and how they came to hold physical space in our community — must be researched and shared as part of the process,” Rubio said. “Shared understanding must happen first, before we can answer the question about the future of these moments. And an institution of higher education is well suited to lead this effort.”
The college will begin its work on the project in January, and once complete, it plans to give its findings to the city council in the fall of 2023, according to Rubio’s office. A public presentation is expected to be held in the winter of 2023, where council members will presumably discuss what it will do with the statues.
“The City of Portland is responsible for maintaining an inclusive public art collection that sees, acknowledges, and respects diverse cultural histories, identities, and ideas,” Rubio said. “And the social justice uprising of 2020 called this into question. Valid questions were raised about some of the monuments standing in our community — and whether they should remain.”