This story was updated to include a statement from the university.
A group of protesters that gathered at Deady Hall to educate community members on systemic racism tore down the long contentious Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues Saturday at about 7:20 p.m., dragging the Pioneer across 13th St. to block the entrance to Johnson Hall.
After members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Liberation Collective, an antiracist activist group, held a teach-in discussing the history of racism in Oregon, a separate group called for people to join in protesting the statues.
Some of those protesters then pulled out ropes, sledgehammers and pickaxes to successfully tear down the Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues, and some suggested throwing the former in the river.
But because of the statue’s weight, they instead dragged the Pioneer — leaving the Pioneer Woman laying beside its pedestal — to the front steps of Johnson Hall.
The BIPOC Liberation Collective gathered at Deady Hall on Saturday at 6 p.m., bringing together a crowd nearing 200 to discuss issues of systemic racism in Oregon.
At the time of publication, the UO Police Department had not arrived in response to the statues being torn down.
The Pioneer and Pioneer Woman statues have sparked controversy on the University of Oregon campus. Last year, red paint was sprayed on the Pioneer’s whip and crotch to protest the statue’s colonial history. Members of the Native American Student Union said shortly after the incident that the statue makes many students feel unwelcome on campus.
The UO Senate created a task force in 2019 to investigate racist pieces around the university, of which the Pioneer was included, but when the findings reached UO President Michael Schill’s office, he decided not to recommend the statue’s removal, according to previous Emerald reporting.
The sculptor of the Pioneer, Alexander Phimister Proctor, also created a Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas that was removed in 2017 due to its white supremacist message, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The toppling of the two pioneer statues comes as protesters around the country, and around the world, tear down racist symbols from their communities. UO student groups like the Native American Student Union have been calling for the two statues to be removed, and just this week, the newly formed Black Student Collective called for their immediate removal.
"These are obviously turbulent times," UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said in a statement. "While we support peaceful protest and vigorous expression of ideas, we do not condone acts of vandalism. Our country, state and campus are coming to terms with historic and pervasive racism that we must address, but it is unfortunate that someone chose to deface and tear down these statues."
“Decisions about the future of the Pioneer statues and other monuments should be made by the campus community through an inclusive and deliberative process, not a unilateral act of destruction,” Hubbard said.
Schill recommended earlier this week that the Board of Trustees dename Deady Hall. He also announced to the University Senate that a campus committee will look at whether statues or monuments on campus should be removed, Hubbard said, including the Pioneer statues.
According to Hubbard, the university will put the statues in safe storage in the meantime, as the committee deliberates.