City Councilor Supports Vandalism of Columbus Statue in Providence

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A Providence city councilor has endorsed recent vandalism of a city-owned statue of Christopher Columbus that covered the statue from head to toe with red paint.

Katherine Kerwin, a Democrat and first-term city councilor, tweeted in support of the vandalism and then doubled down when interviewed by a Providence radio show host Wednesday, October 16.

Gene Valicenti of WPRO radio asked Kerwin about the statue.

“Do you support the vandalism of that statue, as your tweet seems to indicate? …” Valicenti asked, quoting the tweet.

“You know, I do. And I think the statue should be removed,” Kerwin said.

The talk show host followed up.

“Now you also support the vandalism of city property? Because that’s an odd thing for a city councilor to say, no matter what the issue is,” Valicenti said, according to an audio recording of the interview published by WPRO.

Kerwin, who goes by Kat, responded:

“Yeah. I think civil disobedience is good. I think that, you know, we live in a time when, you know, organizers are doing things to draw headlines and to create really healthy dialogue. And I don’t know who did it, but you know, they created a really healthy dialogue in Providence.”

During the interview Kerwin said three times she doesn’t know who vandalized the statue, though Valicenti never asked her that question.

Kerwin expressed concerns about “white supremacy” and “colonization,” which she linked to the Columbus statue.

Someone splashed the statue with red paint between late Sunday night and early Monday morning, which was the official observance of Columbus Day. The state and federal holiday honors the 15th century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who was the first European to come to North America.

Kerwin repeatedly expressed support for the as-yet-unknown vandal.

“And, you know, I don’t know who did that, but obviously they feel really strongly that, ah, you know, what Rhode Island is continuing to do and what Providence is continuing to do by not joining many states that have decided to celebrate Indigenous People Day instead of Columbus Day is hurtful and it’s damaging. And, you know, I stand with them.”

Supporters of the Columbus Day holiday say that the movement of Europeans to the Americas is an important and largely positive development that led to the culture the United States has and should be celebrated. Opponents say Columbus treated indigenous peoples badly and began what they call genocide by Europeans against them.

Kerwin is not a fan of Columbus or what occurred after his discovery in 1492:


Kerwin was a political organizer and gun-control activist as a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, according to a biography on her city web page. She returned to her native Providence to become a spokesman for a pro-gun-control organization before running last year for the Providence City Council at age 21. During the campaign she was featured in Teen Vogue.

Kerwin was elected in November 2018. She represents Ward 12, which includes the Smith Hill neighborhood of the city.

Her district includes a strip club called The Foxy Lady, which was closed temporarily in December 2018 after Providence police determined that strippers at the club had committed prostitution in the club’s basement. Kerwin responded by calling for the club to be reopened and for the state legislature to decriminalize prostitution, according to The Providence Journal.

Kat Kerwin