A statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, has been torn down by protesters, set on fire and then thrown into a lake.

The figure was toppled less than two hours after protesters gathered in the US city’s Byrd Park were chanting for the statue to be taken down, it was reported.

After the figure was removed from its pedestal by protesters using several ropes, a sign that reads “Columbus represents genocide” was placed on the spray-painted foundation that once held the statue. It was then set on fire and rolled into a lake in the park, NBC reported.

There was no police presence in the park, but a police helicopter was seen circling the area after the city-owned figure was torn down, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Earlier during the day, activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise and other protesters spoke to a crowd gathered at Byrd Park about the struggles of indigenous people and African-Americans in America. “We have to start where it all began,” said Ms Higgs-Wise. “We have to start with the people who stood first on this land.”

The Columbus statue was dedicated in Richmond in December 1927, and had been the first statue of Christopher Columbus erected in the South, the newspaper reported.

Its toppling comes amid national protests over the death of George Floyd and several days after a statue of Confederate general Williams Carter Wickham was pulled from its pedestal in Monroe Park by demonstrators who also used ropes.

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