RPT – Alaskan City of Sitka to Decide on Baranov Statue in July-August – Mayor

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 30th June, 2020) The authorities of the US city of Sitka in the state of Alaska will make a decision on the destiny of the statue of the city founder Alexander Baranov in July or August, Mayor Gary Paxton told Sputnik.

Last week, a group of activists urged city authorities to remove the statue, citing mistreatment of the indigenous population during the era of colonization. In 1799, Baranov founded Sitka (then called Novo-Archangelsk) as the capital of the Russian colonies in North America.

“I expect our assembly to move forward in July-August with a public process that is positive, constructive, civil and respects all parties concerning this issue and respects our history,” Paxton said on Monday.

Sitka Municipal Administrator John Leach told Sputnik that no dates for any action have been set, and no legislation has come forward for any removal or moving of the statue. When it is time, Leach added, the assembly will move forward with a public process that is constructive, civil, and respects the city’s history on this sensitive issue.

“The only event that has occurred is that there were protesters asking for the removal of the statue in a short 30 minute silent protest that started before an Assembly meeting on June 23rd. No other actions have occurred,” Leach said.

Sitka History Museum Executive Director Hal Spackman said Russian heritage will always remain a part of Alaskan history despite any decision on the Baranov statue.

“History does not disappear, events happened,” Spackman told Sputnik. “It is important for us all to accurately record, study and learn about and from history.”

Asked, if the statue removal could be considered as a move against Sitka‘s history, Spackman said the Baranov monument has stirred controversy since its erection in 1989.

“I believe those who wish to have the statue removed have some understanding of Sitka‘s history.

They feel the statue represents negative interactions between Russians and Alaska Natives,” Spackman added.

Spackman did not rule out that his museum will accept the statue if the Assembly decides to relocate it.

“Should the City and Borough of Sitka request that the statue be moved to our museum, our board of Directors is willing to consider accepting the statue,” he said.

� On Sunday, the Russian Community Council of the United States issued an online petition against plans to demolish the statue. According to the petition, the removal of the monument proposed by city resident will “erase important pages of Alaska’s rich history and deal a major blow to Russian American heritage and cross-cultural engagement.”

Sitka is situated on Baranof Island, which is named after Baranov, who was the governor of what was then called Russian America. The group of activists that want the statue removed consists mostly of people from the Tlingit tribe.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on the protection of the country’s monuments, which have become a major target for protesters during a month of violent clashes and demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

According to Trump‘s order, those found guilty of vandalizing statues and monuments could face 10 years in jail.

Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes in an incident captured on video that went viral.

In many cities across the country, statues depicting former Confederate generals, presidents who owned slaves, and Christopher Columbus, the fifteenth-century Italian explorer who was said to have discovered North America, have been targeted by protesters.

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