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story.lead_photo.caption Former California Gov. Pete Wilson imitates the pose of a statue dedicated in his honor at Horton Plaza in San Diego in this Aug. 25, 2007, file photo. The statue was removed from the park after critics said the governor supported laws and policies that hurt immigrants and the gay and transgender communities, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Thursday, Oct. 16, 2020. (The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP / Nelvin Cepeda )

SAN DIEGO — A statue of former California Gov. Pete Wilson was removed from a San Diego park after critics said the governor supported laws and policies that hurt immigrants and members of the gay and transgender community, a newspaper reported.

The 13-year-old statue near Horton Plaza Park was removed by Horton Walk, the nonprofit that owns it, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Thursday.

Horton Walk president Steve Williams wrote in an email that no decision had been made on whether it will eventually be returned.

“All property … whether statues or real property … must be protected,” he wrote. “With this in mind, we have decided to secure and protect the statue in a place of safekeeping.”

On Monday, representatives of Hispanic and gay-rights groups held a news conference in front of the life-sized bronze sculpture, saying Wilson supported laws and policies that hurt their communities.

Activist Enrique Morones, who spearheaded the removal effort, told the Union-Tribune he is glad the statue was taken down because it was not something the community wanted in the first place.

“No one has unified the Latino community more than Pete Wilson,” Morones said in an email. “His racist support of Proposition 187 back in 1994 unified Latino community and supporters of human rights, against him.”

In 1994, voters approved the Wilson-supported Proposition 187, which sought to cut off state services, including health care and public education, to California residents who were illegally in the United States. A federal judge later ruled it unconstitutional.

Wilson, a Republican, has long been criticized by Hispanics, and has been accused of essentially mobilizing California’s Hispanic and immigrant communities against the Republican Party. In the 10 presidential elections between 1952 and 1988, the state had voted Republican nine times, including twice for former California Gov. Ronald Reagan. In the three-way race of 1992, Bill Clinton carried the state with about 46% of the vote.

After Proposition 187 in 1994, no Republican candidate for president has earned more than 45% of the vote in California.

Wilson could not be reached immediately for comment. Sean Walsh, his law partner and former chief of staff, said the statue was a recognition of the governor’s 50 years of public service.

“It’s regrettable that intimidation tactics similar to those used in Seattle, Portland, Oakland and other cities across the country are causing individuals and businesses to protect themselves,” he said. “Our country, our society cannot be ruled by the threat of intimidation and violence.”

The property where the statue was located is owned and maintained by a private company and the city was not involved in removing the statue, said San Diego spokesman Gustavo Portela.

The move comes amid nationwide demands for the removal of statues and symbols of Confederate generals and those who owned enslaved people.

Wilson was mayor of San Diego from 1971 to 1983. He represented California in the U.S. Senate from 1983 to 1991 and served as governor from 1991 to 1999.


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