Conversations around race and racial justice

Activist charged in toppling of Minnesota Columbus statue

A man stands on the neck of a statue.
Twin Cities American Indian Movement member Mike Forcia, who is Anishanaabe, stands on the neck of a statue of Christopher Columbus at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on June 10.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Updated: 4:15 p.m.

A Minnesota prosecutor charged an Indigenous activist with a felony on Friday in the toppling of a Christopher Columbus statue on state Capitol grounds during a rally weeks after the death of George Floyd.

Mike Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is charged with criminal damage to property. Forcia, also a Twin Cities American Indian Movement activist, organized the June 10 American Indian Movement rally at the Capitol that resulted in the toppling of the statue, which came as many similar monuments were being pulled down worldwide after Floyd's death in late May.

The toppling came after a State Patrol captain warned Forcia of criminal consequences and urged him to work through a Capitol planning board to remove the statue, according to the complaint.

Forcia’s attorney Jack Rice hopes that rather than taking the case to trial, the Ramsey County Attorney's office will be open to a different approach.

"If we could find a restorative justice approach where we actually have real conversations with the community — people on all sides — maybe what we would get is a better understanding on all sides on why we're so polarized and we can maybe move forward.

“I think it's a better outcome for my client, I also think it's a far better outcome for society and certainly for the people of Minnesota," Rice said.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said his office will develop a community engagement process to "determine how best we hold Mr. Forcia accountable while healing our community from the harm that was caused."

The lack of immediate charges in the statue's toppling drew sharp criticism from Minnesota conservatives, which led to a July oversight hearing by state Senate Republicans in which they questioned public safety officials on the lack of response by state police.

Charges against others are still possible, Choi said.

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