HARTFORD, Conn. — Someone smashed the head off of the Christopher Columbus statue that has stood in front of Waterbury’s city hall for many years.

The decapitated statue was discovered Saturday morning and police are investigating.

The Waterbury chapter of UNICO, an Italian American service organization, said on its Facebook page Saturday it would offer a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for damaging the statue.

“We are saddened by this action of violence as it does not represent the message of thanksviging the statue embodies to the Italian-American community,” the organization said in a statement.

About a dozen people gathered outside city hall Saturday morning to view the damage and there was some yelling and arguing.

The statue was the scene of a protest Thursday. Black Lives Matter protesters called for the removal of the statue and clashed with about 20 counterprotesters from a local motorcycle club, the Republican-American of Waterbury reported.

New London, New Haven and Hartford have removed Christopher Columbus statutes. New London did so to prevent further damage to the statue. In New Haven protesters clashed as city crews removed a statue from Wooster Square Park. A statute in Middletown was removed too.

In Hartford, city crews removed the Columbus statue from a small park near the state Capitol and the Supreme Court without incident by beginning work early in the morning Monday.

Protesters across the country have issued renewed demands that monuments honoring Columbus be removed as the Italian explorer’s legacy also includes the enslavement and subjugation of indigenous people. While the debate over Columbus’ legacy has been ongoing for decades, calls to remove monuments honoring him have accelerated with the racial justice protests spurred by police killings of Black people in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, among other places.

Columbus statues across Connecticut were typically erected by Italian American organizations to boost the pride of a community that also endured prejudice. That was the case in New Haven, where the statue in Wooster Square was put up in 1892 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage west.

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