August Celebration Planned at Former Thomas Fallon Statue Location

A cohort of activists including local indigenous groups will hold a celebration in August at the former site of the Thomas Fallon statue, which was taken down in April after decades of controversy and complaints that its presence served as a blatant symbol of American imperialism in downtown San Jose.

The event — scheduled for Aug. 4 at the site of the former statue near Highway 87 on St. James Street — will include members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, the organizing center Centro Aztlan Chicomoztoc and the activist group San Jose Black Berets.

After a cleansing and land acknowledgment, organizers will head to the corner of San Carlos and Almaden where Native American remains were discovered decades ago at a construction site. The event will continue at Plaza de Cesar Chavez’s Quetzalcoatl sculpture, which depicts a Mesoamerican deity, before concluding at St. James Park.

“It is a victory celebration,” said Maria Quinonez Ortiz, who was part of the coalition that advocated for the removal of the statue. “But we have to cleanse this hurt. Even if it took 30 years.”

The Fallon statue, commissioned by then-Mayor Tom McEnery in 1988 without public input, was installed in 2002 after being held in storage in Oakland after criticism around its supposed symbolism.

The statue depicts former San Jose mayor Fallon during his time as a captain during the Mexican-American War raising an American flag during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, when control of California was taken from Mexico.

Though critics of Fallon argue he was responsible for genocide during the time of Westward expansion, no evidence has come to light to directly support these claims. Former mayor McEnery has opposed its removal, writing in a Mercury News opinion article that those who advocated the dismantling were basing their arguments on “careless rhetoric and unsupported facts.”

“Telling history that is full of distortions can cause damage,” McEnery said in an interview. “We have to tell our history with the positives and the negatives.”

Others who supported the statue’s removal argued Fallon’s contributions to the city — he served as mayor in the late 1850s — were not significant enough for him to be honored with a statue.

More than a decade after its installation, San Jose spent $100,000 to move the 16-foot-tall, 12,000-pound bronze statue nearly 100 feet west because of nearby construction. Efforts to take down the statue ramped up in the wake of the 2020 protests after George Floyd’s murder, with the city council voting unanimously to dismantle it in November 2021. City officials say it is worth about $6,000.


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