State officials discuss how to remove controversial statues, artwork

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The future of controversial artwork and statues at the Minnesota State Capitol will likely be a key focus of the Minnesota Capitol Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB). It’s the result of the destruction of the Christopher Columbus statue on the Capitol grounds two weeks ago. The board was told Thursday the damage is estimated at $154,000.

"Statues and monuments commemorating part of our shared history that don’t reflect the best of us have come down around the country, including right here in St. Paul," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said as she opened the meeting of the board she chairs.

Protesters tear down Christopher Columbus statue outside State Capitol

Flanagan said it appears the CAAPB and Minnesota Historical Society will play a role in future decisions, but she says there’s no formal process in place for statues on the grounds outside the Capitol.

"There is no CAAPB board policy and process in place to address if and how commemorative works on the capitol grounds can be removed," she said.

Flanagan says there is a process for removing controversial artwork inside the Capitol.

The CAAPB is chaired by Flanagan and also includes staff of the Minnesota Historical Society and state lawmakers. Republican Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester says any new policy should strongly discourage unlawful removal of statues and art.

"I think we might be missing a great teaching moment if we believe that the best way to not repeat history is to tear down historical markers," she said.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the Columbus statue destruction and will eventually forward the case to the Ramsey County Attorney for possible charges.