The pedestal where Sir John A. Macdonald sat for 125 years is now empty.
The City of Montreal removed the toppled statue from the site early Sunday morning as officials work to figure out their next steps.
According to police, the statue was unbolted, pulled down and sprayed with graffiti just before 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Police say they haven’t made any arrests in connection with the incident, but they have opened what they’re calling a mischief investigation, gathering footage from nearby security cameras.
Montreal Eveline Reid Park recalls eating lunch by the statue every day.
“I used to think, well, Sir John A. Macdonald, the very first prime minister of Canada, but he has never been forgiven for hanging Louis Riel,” Park said of the Métis leader’s hanging in 1885 for high treason.
The statue, which was erected in 1895, has been at the centre of controversy for years, with critics pointing to it as a symbol of Canada’s poor treatment of Indigenous peoples and of racial injustice.
“People today are more aware of the past than they have been in my generation; today the young generation is very open,” Park said.
Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal, questioned the whether or not toppling the statue will lead to any positive action.
“The people who pulled it down clearly understood the harm that he’s done, but how has it helped Indigenous people? How does it help anyone who is affected by John A. Macdonald?” Nakuset said.
Many politicians took to twitter to condemn the actions.
Quebec’s Premier François Legault said “we must fight racism, but destroying parts of our history is not the solution. Vandalism has no place in our democracy and the statue must be restored.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she condemns the vandalism.
“Some historical monuments, here as elsewhere, are at the heart of current emotional debates,” she said.
“I reiterate that it’s better to put them in context rather than remove them. I am also in favour of adding monuments that are more representative of the society to which we aspire.”
She added that the city’s public art office will secure the perimeter and coordinate the conservation of the statue in consultation with the city’s heritage experts.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that if Montreal decides not to reinstall a statue of John A. Macdonald, he would like to see it installed on the grounds of the Alberta legislature.
Nakuset said she’s disappointed with the political response.
“It’s kind of interesting that when you have politicians that are ready to mend the statue and put it back, are they really understanding what happened to Indigenous people?” she said.
According to a flyer obtained by Global News, the movement to remove the statue was organized separately from the group calling for police defunding.
“Today, inspired by a summer of rebellion and anti-racist protest, a diverse coalition of young activists take it upon themselves to act where the city has failed,” read the flyer.
Images from the event show a crowd of protesters marching in the rain under umbrellas and carrying signs bearing slogans such as “We demand change.”
The organizers, who call themselves the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation, are asking cities to reduce their police budgets by 50 per cent. They say that the toppling of the statue took them by storm.
“I’m upset people are taking away from what we are trying to address, what we are trying to do here and why we all came out in the pouring rain, in solidarity with the other cities,” said Elijah Olise of the BIPOC Coalition.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.