There have been several efforts over the years to remove the controversial John Robert Monaghan statue from downtown Spokane. One group hopes to deliver a letter to the City Council asking for its removal by early June.
Gonzaga University hosted a panel discussion, titled “Advancing Removal of the John R. Monaghan Statue: A Movement in Solidarity with Pasifika to Combat Racism,” Tuesday night at the school’s Hemmingson Center Auditorium.
Monaghan died near Apia, Samoa, in 1899 in the United States’ effort to colonize the Pacific Ocean island between Hawaii and New Zealand.
He was the son of a wealthy Spokane business man, James Monaghan, who made money in mining and railroads.
The younger Monaghan was part of the first class to graduate from Gonzaga College and later attended the U.S. Naval Academy.
The plaque on the downtown statue reads, “During the retreat of the allied forces from the deadly fire and overwhelming number of the savage foe, he alone stood the fearful onslaught and sacrificed his life defending a wounded comrade Lieutenant Philip V. Lansdale United States Navy.”
But Kiana McKenna, director of Policy and Civic Engagement at Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington, said the U.S. Navy, including Monaghan, initiated violence against Samoans. The USS Philadelphia shelled Samoan villages, targeting and killing civilians, including women and children. U.S. sailors, including Monaghan, went ashore to burn Samoan villages, she said.
She said the Monaghan statue commemorates a war that was not honorable and that caused pain and destruction of Samoan communities. It serves as a constant reminder of a painful past and continues to cause pain to the Samoan and Pacific Islander community, McKenna said.
“I read it and I can tell you that my blood boiled, but I can also tell you that I felt so unwelcome,” McKenna said of the first time reading the plaque.
“The statue was an effort to justify atrocities that were committed against an entire population,” she added. One of Tuesday’s panelists, Siniva Areta, a Gonza
One of Tuesday’s panelists, Siniva Areta, a Gonzaga graduate of Samoan ancestry, said she was a mix of “shocked” and “not surprised” when she learned of the statue.
Jade Faletoi, another panelist who is Samoan, said the statue represents something that is “atrocious and not something we should be proud of.”
The City Council has the authority to remove the statue, located at the corner of Monroe Street and Riverside Avenue, McKenna said.
Protesters rallied in October in an effort to get the statue taken down.
An online petition, sign.moveon.org/petitions/remove-the-racist-john-r-monaghan-statue-in-downtown-spokane-wa, to remove the statue garnered 1,604 signatures as of Tuesday night.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.