MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The activist who toppled the Christopher Columbus statue in St. Paul over the summer will receive 100 hours of community service and avoid a trial. The decision was reached with the help of a restorative justice program.
Court documents say Michael Anthony Forcia organized a Facebook event on June 10 and announced his plans to bring down the statue.
It fell to the sounds of cheers, as protesters said Columbus was responsible the genocide of Native American people.
Forcia was charged with Criminal Damage to Property in the First Degree on June 10. Punishment for this conviction, by a person with no criminal history, is a probationary sentence with supervision of up to five years.
However, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi decided to initiate a restorative justice process, with engagement from the community. He asked Dr. Raj Sethuraju, a facilitator and criminal justice professor, and Beverly Bushyhead, a Native American community member who adapts Indigenous cultural practices, to lead two circles. The circles discussed Forcia’s actions, the violence inflicted on Native American people by the U.S. government, and the context of the ongoing civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.
The two groups came together and suggested solutions which would restore healing in the community and not include jail time, as they said it would serve no purpose. They also suggested acknowledging Forcia’s actions as an act of civil disobedience.
“Employing restorative principles in a way that allows all voices and perspectives to be respectfully heard provides a greater opportunity to achieve true justice for our community, to respond more meaningfully and in due time, rather than waiting more than a year for an adversarial trial that would not provide adequate closure for our community and likely create additional division,” said Choi. “The pursuit of justice should always seek to unite a community rather than divide it.”
Forcia’s 100 hours of community service will comprise of providing education and participating in other restorative practices to heal harms identified in the circle process.
The cost of repair for the statue is estimated to be $154,553
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