George Floyd death: US protesters pull down a statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, throw it in a lake

The statue in St Paul being torn down on Thursday, left, and the monument in Virginia found in a lake on Tuesday night.
The statue in St Paul being torn down on Thursday, left, and the monument in Virginia found in a lake on Tuesday night. Photo credit: Twitter/CBS News

Anti-racism protesters in Virginia and Minnesota have torn down separate statues of Christopher Columbus, as waves of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd continue.

The first incident in Richmond, Virgina on Tuesday night (local time) saw the statue being draped in a burning flag before being dumped in a lake, images posted to social media showed.

On Thursday morning (local time), another group of protesters pulled down a statue of Columbus in St Paul, Minnesota.

The 10-foot bronze statue was pulled from its granite base by several dozen people led by a Minnesota-based Native American activist outside the state Capitol, documented by news photographers and television camera operators.

"It was the right thing to do and it was the right time to do it," the activist, Mike Forcia, told Reuters.

Native American activists have long objected to honouring Columbus, saying that his expeditions to the Americas led to the colonization and genocide of their ancestors.

Forcia said he was advised by a Minnesota state trooper that he could expect to be arrested in the coming days and charged with criminal destruction. A city crew removed the statue, which was broken at the base.

According to a website for the Capitol, the monument was created by sculptor Carlo Brioschi and dedicated in 1931 as a gift to the city from Italian-Americans in Minnesota.

Floyd, 46, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was held face down in a street in Minneapolis on May 25.

Some of the civil action has focused on monuments glorifying countries' imperialist past, which some people see as offensive in today's multi-ethnic society. Protesters have torn down statues linked to empire and the slave trade.

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451 and his voyages across the Atlantic opened the way for European colonisation of the Americas. He first arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1492, a date marked as Columbus Day in the US, a federal holiday.

In Washington, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress on Wednesday to remove 11 statues representing Confederate leaders and soldiers from the American Civil War.