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San Francisco reverses course, controversial statue to stand

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco authorities reversed a decision to remove a 19th century statue near City Hall that some say is degrading to Native Americans. San Francisco's Board of Appeals late Wednesday unanimously voted to overturn the city's Arts Commission earlier decision to remove the "Early Days" sculpture, which depicts a Native American at the feet of a Spanish cowboy and Catholic missionary. It is part of the Pioneer Monument cluster that depicts the founding of California.

The board voted to keep the statue standing after lawyer Steve Schmid appealed the Arts Commission decision to place the statue in storage. Schmid argued the sculpture is an art piece regardless of one's opinion of the sculpture. He said the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment mandates its protection.

"There is controversy here, but you don't end controversy by hiding it away," Schmid said at the meeting. "We don't destroy art." The Arts Commission started the removal process in October after demonstrators clashed over the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

"As a city, we had an opportunity to correct a gross misrepresentation of history and to honor the wishes of the first people of this land, who have advocated for the sculpture's removal for decades, said commission spokeswoman Kate Patterson.

Patterson said the agency is committed to the statue's removal and is exploring its legal options.

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