TUCSON – A controversial statue at the Veinte De Agosto Park in Tucson may need to find a new home. Judicial Watch, a conservative group, wants the statue of Pancho Villa taken down.
The Pancho Villa statue, a gift from the Mexican government in 1981, is no stranger to controversy. According to a New York Times article, then-mayor Lew Murphy boycotted the ceremony of its unveiling.
That is because Villa was known not only as a Mexican revolutionary, but also a bandit and murderer.
“He gets recognition for lawlessness. He gets recognition without engaging a process that’s in place,” Mark Spencer of the Judicial Watch said. “He gets recognition at taxpayer expense and he gets recognition in an area, a park that’s been closed in 2015, which seems to add very little to the quality of life to the community.”
Spencer said his group is following due process in order to get it removed.
“They denied a public hearing in 1981. Last summer, they refused to hear objections because the hearing wasn’t requested as per process or policy,” he said. “Now, we’re just making that request the way it should be done within the rules.”
In 1983, a Tucson man tried to sue the city to take down the statue, but that lawsuit was thrown out of court.
Ward 6 Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik said he disagrees with removing the statue.
“The basis for their request to remove the statue is that they say there has been a sustained and overwhelming public objection to it,” Kozachik said. “There has been neither a sustained nor an overwhelming public objection to this statue being there.”
Kozachik said that the gift was accepted by Arizona leaders back in 1981.
“The governor of the state Bruce Babel was here to receive it along with 600 other people,” Kozachik said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re keeping it.”
The Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the request for removal of the statue. That meeting will be held at the Pima County Housing Center located at 801 W. Congress St.