Removal of controversial Thomas Fallon statue in San Jose begins

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Removal of controversial Thomas Fallon statue in San Jose begins
After years of debate, work crews have begun the process to remove the controversial statue depicting former San Jose Mayor Thomas Fallon in 1846.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Work crews have begun the days-long process to remove the controversial Fallon statue in downtown San Jose.

The 12,000-pound Thomas Fallon sculpture has been a divisive issue ever since its installation in 1990.

The statue depicts former San Jose Mayor Fallon in 1846, raising the U.S. flag in San Jose.

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California was still a part of Mexico at the time.

A few years ago, Dr. Gregorio Mora-Torres, a former SJSU Chicano Studies Professor was asked by the San Jose City Council to write an opinion piece on the monument.

"Do we honor somebody who was once a hero? But who for a lot of people was a villain?" Dr. Mora-Torres said.

Historians in support of the statue say Fallon is a founding father of the city of San Jose.

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A statue of former San Jose mayor Thomas Fallon was vandalized with graffiti and set on fire Wednesday night during a downtown San Jose protest of the Breonna Taylor verdict.

Former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery who was behind the statue was vocal in support that the history during Fallon's time is important.

He spoke during a meeting at 2021.

"Sins and oppression and mistakes, all of those happened under each flag, and they deserve to be excoriated and they have been," McEnery said.

After years of protests, vandalism, and intense debate - city leaders voted unanimously to remove the sculpture two years ago.

Charlene Nijmeh, Chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, said the statue was being glorified.

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"The Fallon statue represents a time in our history that was brutal for us Native Americans and the Mexican communities that were living here along with us," Nijmeh said.

She said there should be a statue that represents all of us.

"I think history needs to be told right so I wouldn't want this statue to be removed and forgotten. That statue needs to be placed somewhere where that history is shared, both histories are shared right?" Nijmeh said.

As far as next steps, the city says there is no current funding to replace it with another public artwork. Instead, the current plans are to restore it as a traffic median.

The city says the statue will be removed by May 4 and moved into storage.

The cost of de-installation is estimated at $450,000 dollars.

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