Thomas Fallon was a soldier in the Mexican-American War and a mayor of San Jose, California, but now left-wing activists are calling for “melting” the bronze statue erected in his honor because they believe he was a racist and a white supremacist. He planted an American flag in 1846 into the city’s soil to claim the land for the United States.
A website that catalogs “interesting” locations around the world wrote about the controversy:
In the 1980s, San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery had the city commission a statue of Fallon raising the U.S. flag in San Jose at a cost of over $800,000. The statue was completed in 1988, and was scheduled to be located in the City Park Plaza (now known as Plaza de César Chávez) near the site of the flag raising. However local groups, including Hispanic Americans, protested that Fallon represented American imperialism and repression of the Mexican population. The statue was stored until 2002, when it was finally displayed in a small park northwest of the original proposed location, near Julian and St. James Streets.”
A now, even the more low-key location is being challenged, according to the San Francisco Chronicle report on public meetings held on the statue’s fate:
Community members used their 1-minute allotted time to persuade city officials to get rid of the controversial 16-foot-tall statue, many using the same words to describe Fallon’s legacy: Colonialism. Imperialism. Racism. Injustice. White supremacy. Violence. Genocide.
Fallon was one of the “soldiers of John C. Fremont’s brigade that was involved in the war with Mexico” from 1846 to 1848, and he went on to serve one yearlong term as San Jose’s 10th mayor, said Albert Camarillo, a Stanford University American history professor and historian.
Some speakers suggested melting the bronze and commissioning local artists to repurpose the metal in a new statue more representative of San Jose’s influential leaders of color. Some suggested moving the statue to a museum or local historical society where context could be given, and others proposed allowing Latino, indigenous and Black people to remove the statue.
“As an immigrant, it makes me feel extremely unwanted and unwelcome,” local high school student Valentina Coronel said in the Chronicle report, adding “we have basically destroyed the Native American, the Hispanic culture in the whole county. I see the remnants of the culture being erased quickly.”
“Each time I see that, that’s what I see: It’s another example of colonization,” Yolanda Guerra, a teacher at San Jose High School who lives in the neighborhood where the statue stands, said.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who solicited evidence of Fallon’s misdeeds, said it would cost about $400,000 to remove the statue and transport it elsewhere. Liccardo said in the Chronicle report:
It’s clear that many people strongly feel that Fallon has committed these horrible crimes. It would be helpful for us to have that record, and then we will have a very clear basis for saying ‘let’s move the statue.’ In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to the community and be very open to the public process that results.
The Chronicle reported:
The statue is a ‘permanent’ piece of public art, so it has to go through a de-accession review process, which involves communicating with the artist and move through the Public Art Committee and Arts Commission, which can recommend the removal to the City Council. The City Council has that ultimate authority to de-accession a permanent artwork like the Fallon Statue, said Michael Ogilvie, San Jose’s public art director.
Camarillo told the Chronicle that to some Mexican Americans “and to anyone that has a historical consciousness,” the statue is seen as “putting someone who is the manifestation of the worst elements of Manifest Destiny.”
“If it causes injury to some subset of a population in the public realm — Mexican Americans, Latinos constitute the largest minority in San Jose — if a subset of that population feels harmed, affected by that statue, which does what?” Camarillo said, adding it “shows that the United States was taken, that Mexican California was taken by a violent overthrow of the American Republic in 1846. This fellow (Fallon) represents that.”
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