ST PAUL, Minn. — Felony criminal damage to property charges have been filed in connection with the toppling of a statue on the grounds of the State Capitol June 10.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced the charges against Michael Anthony Forcia Thursday for allegedly knocking a historic statue of Christopher Columbus off its perch. Choi said at the time of the incident Forcia acknowledged that he would likely be held accountable for organizing the protest that led to the statue being pulled down by activists.
Damage to the statue is estimated at more than $154,000.
According to a criminal complaint filed against Forcia, on the morning of June 10, the Minnesota State Patrol received information that the defendant had organized a 5 p.m. event via social media entitled, “AIM rally against racism! Bring your drums!” Prosecutors say it was clear from the post that the event’s purpose was to remove the statue.
The complaint states that when troopers arrived at capitol they observed two individuals by the statue. One, Forcia, declared they were there to “pull the statue down.” State Patrol Captain Eric Roeske informed Forcia about the process for removing or changing monuments on the Capitol complex, even offering him a copy of Minnesota Statute 15B which outlines the process.
Roeske says Forcia stated they had been through many processes before and that they were “taking it down today.” By 4:52 p.m. a large crowd had gathered and by 5:01 p.m. the statue was pulled to the ground.
In an interview with investigators, Forcia claimed he was chairman of American Indian Movement (A.I.M) of the Twin Cities, and stated he wanted the statue removed as part of an effort to teach others about racism. He declined to name others involved the protest.
Later interviews with national A.I.M. officials revealed that they had not sanctioned the protest, and that Forcia is not a part of their organization.
Choi acknowledges how polarizing the presence of the Columbus statue was, and says determining what is justice in Forcia's case will not be decided with a trial, but will take a different path.
“Given the impact of this action on residents across our state and the divisive reactions it has engendered, we believe administering justice in this case requires an extraordinary step -- the active engagement and participation of our community,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. “We are working on developing a restorative process to give voice to those divergent opinions and bring people who hold them together to determine how best we hold Mr. Forcia accountable while healing our community from the harm that was caused.