Native activist who toppled Capitol Columbus statue gets community service

    Activists led by members of the American Indian Movement tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus at the State Capitol. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

    The organizer charged with toppling the Christopher Columbus statue outside of the Minnesota State Capitol in June will avoid a trial and instead serve 100 community service hours after striking a deal with prosecutors Monday. 

    Mike Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe and organizer with the American Indian Movement, faced felony charges for first-degree criminal damage to property after organizing the protest. Although numerous activists were present at the June 10 protest, Forcia was the only person charged.

    The plea agreement requires Forcia to remain law abiding and write a letter acknowledging the damage the toppling of the 10-foot bronze statue caused. After that point, the charge will be removed from his record.

    After hosting three restorative justice meetings with community members, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Sarah Cory said that a sentence involving jail or prison time would be “detrimental.”

    “We cannot ignore that the act in this case was an act of civil disobedience — and a response that follows with simply punishment would not further the goals of uniting community or achieving justice in these circumstances,” she said.

    Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Leonard Castro quickly approved the deal.

    “I look forward to the community service, I look forward to the discussions we’re going to be having,” Forcia said. 

    Forcia’s plea deal delays the discussion of restitution, because it is uncertain whether the statue will be re-erected. Restoration of the statue would cost around $154,000, according to Fox 9 News.

    The future of the Columbus statue will be decided by two task forces comprising community members, lawmakers and members of the Capitol Arts and Architectural Planning Board, per the StarTribune. Decisions are unlikely to be made until 2021. 

    Dylan Miettinen
    Dylan Miettinen is a Reformer intern. A fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota, he was born and raised in Omaha, Neb. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. He's also worked for CNN, the Minnesota Media and Publishing Association and the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast.