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Kalamazoo City Commission votes to remove controversial fountain

Posted at 1:21 AM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 01:22:55-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- After over five hours of public comment and discussion, Kalamazoo City Commission voted to remove the "Fountain of the Pioneers" from Bronson Park.

The vote came just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday after years of debate over the statue, which portrays a white pioneer standing over a Native American, holding what some interpret as a weapon.

City Manager Jim Ritsema previously recommended that it be removed from the park.

Every member of the Kalamazoo City Commission voted to approve the recommendation, except Commissioner Jack Urban.

“Many see the fountain as an important piece of 20th century art capturing a dark chapter of our country’s history," Ritsema says in his recommendation. "Others view it is a painful reminder of injustice and a symbol of inequality or supremacy.”

Before Monday's meeting, dozens of protesters assembled outside Kalamazoo City Hall to express opposition against what they believe the fountain represents.

“This offends Native American people because that is a spiritual leader," Linda Cypret-Kilbourne tells FOX 17. "It’s a Lakota Sioux headdress on that spiritual person out there on that fountain and that pioneer is a white person holding a club over him.”

Some in favor of keeping the statue up cited concerns of censorship and oversensitivity.

The issue of the fountain's funding was also addressed at the meeting. Since the statue has been voted to be removed, all donations for a $2.3 million fundraising campaign will now have to be reevaluated by each donor, according to city leaders.

However, the city administrators argue that removing the statue will make the most financial sense. The cost of restoring it was estimated to be $1.2 million, while removal and storage will only cost $100,000 to $200,000.