After decades of public protest, SJ votes to remove controversial Thomas Fallon statue

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
SJ votes to remove controversial Thomas Fallon statue
After more than 30 years of controversy, San Jose City Council made it official on Tuesday. The Thomas Fallon statue is coming down.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- After more than 30 years of controversy, San Jose City Council made it official on Tuesday. The Thomas Fallon statue is coming down.

The 12,000-pound bronze sculpture currently sits at West St. James and Julian streets. It'll soon be moved into storage.

During Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman Raul Peralez said, "The history is clear, Thomas Fallon is not someone that deserves this level of honor in our city."

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City leaders voted unanimously to remove the sculpture.

On Tuesday, a presentation by city staff pointed to three specific reasons that met requirements for removal.

According to the presentation by Deputy City Manager Angel Rios, Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Adams Hapner, and Public Art Director Michael Ogilvie, the three requirements met included:

  • -Significant adverse public reaction has continued unabated over an extended period of time.
  • -The condition or security of the artwork cannot be reasonably guaranteed.
  • -The artwork requires excessive maintenance.

These three items reflected in recent demonstrations by some in the community.

VIDEO: Statue of former SJ mayor vandalized, set on fire during protest

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.

However, many we spoke with said those aren't the reasons they're worried about.

"No, no, no. This has nothing to do with vandals," San Jose resident, Paul Soto told ABC7 News. "This has absolutely everything to do with the immoral and unethical practice of acquiring land and a sense of superiority."

Soto and others during public comment called out Fallon, a former city mayor, who is viewed by some as a colonizer and oppressor.

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The statue depicted Fallon raising the U.S. flag in San Jose in the mid-1800's, on what was then-Mexican land.

"It's a beautiful work of art, but it's racist in meaning, message, and intent," a resident said during public comment.

Another said, "This is wrong, especially today when we're talking about equity."

According to the city, the removal will cost an estimated $450,000 to take down.

Back at City Hall Tuesday night, there were some tense moments as former mayor Tom McEnery took questions from council.

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McEnery was instrumental in putting up the statue and at the meeting, maintained history matters.

"Sins and oppression and mistakes, all of those happened under each flag," former Mayor McEnery told council. "And they deserve to be excoriated and they have been. I think many people have done it appropriately in San Jose, and appropriately nationally."

However, many said they not only want to see it go, they want it gone.

City staff said San Jose cannot destroy the statue because doing so would be against federal and state laws protecting an artist's work.

Mayor Sam Liccardo's office shared this statement with ABC7 News:

"I've supported removing the Fallon Statue for many reasons, among them that we have higher priorities for our understaffed police than chasing vandals away from statues of minor historical figures. Above all, it's time to refocus our energies from tearing down statues, to building solutions for the many thousands of our residents who suffer in homelessness, struggle to pay rent, or mourn loved ones lost in this pandemic."