On Thursday, the state of former San Diego Mayor, Governor, and Senator Pete Wilson was removed from Horton Plaza in San Diego following calls by activists to remove the statue in the past week.
The statue had been seen as controversial by many Hispanics in the area due to Wilson’s support of Proposition 187 in 1994 while he was Governor of California. Prop. 187 proposed to make immigrants residing in the country illegally ineligible for public social services, public health care services, and all levels of public education. While passed by California voters in 1994 by nearly 60%, Prop 187 was later found to be unconstitutional and has since been used as a main reason why recent Hispanic immigrants in California have not supported the Republican party.
The statue was installed on private land in 2007 as a way to honor the now-retired California lawmaker.
However, after the George Floyd protests earlier this year and a subsequent push to remove monuments and statues of historical figures over injustices committed by those depicted. In California, famed statues such as the Christopher Columbus statue in the Capitol Rotunda in Sacramento and several statues of Father Junipero Serra were either removed or torn down earlier this year largely due to respective public pressure and action.
A protest on Monday in San Diego by members of the Hispanic and LGBT community voiced their concerns over Wilson’s statue.
“It’s an outrage that someone who was willing to hurt so many still has a statue up in this day and age,” said San Diego resident and activist Terrence Ochoa to the Globe. “We were out there on Monday because we can’t keep up statues that honored people but ignored their actions and belief. In Wilson’s case, he basically said that people like my Mom and Dad did not deserve to live here and didn’t want us here.”
Supporters upset over the removal of the statue of Governor Wilson
However, many supporters of Wilson said that he deserves to be honored for his decades of public service, and that he fought for and increased rights for many disadvantaged Californians.
“Wilson has a more than 50-year track record of helping all San Diegans and Californians of every race and creed,” a representative for Wilson said in a statement. “In his public service, he has supported policies that have greatly benefitted some of our most disadvantaged populations. His public policy record, compassion, and government successes are second to no public servant alive today. Regarding the individuals at today’s media event, it is sad that we have become a cancel culture, simply tear down, shut down or disregard. We are happy to match our 50-year record of public service to the rhetoric of ultraliberal activists.”
However, despite Wilson’s track record, worry over damage or destruction of the statue, similar to the toppled statues of Junipero Serra from earlier this year, led to the decision of Horton Walk, the San Diego walk of fame, to remove statue on Thursday.
The city of San Diego, San Diego lawmakers, and the owner of the land the statue is on, the Irvine Company, had no say in the decision.
‘We have decided to secure and protect this statue in a place of safe keeping,” explained Horton Walk president Stephen Williams in a statement. “No decision has been made at this time as to when or if the statue will be returned.”
Pete Wilson, who turned 87 earlier this year, has yet to respond to the statue removal.