A controversial statue on the Capitol grounds of colonist John Mason would be removed under Connecticut’s new state budget

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The state budget approved by the General Assembly on Wednesday will fund the removal of a controversial statue at the Capitol.

John Mason occupies a prime perch on the outside of the building. An early English settler and military leader who helped found the town of Windsor, Mason organized a devastating raid on a Pequot settlement in the 17th century.

“We will in this budget remove the John Mason statue and relocate it to the Old Statehouse with an appropriate historical context,” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said during a debate on the spending package.

“Mason led the attack ... the burning of a fortified Pequot village that killed more than 400 elders, women and children and nearly wiped out the tribe,” Osten added. “We don’t want to get rid of John Mason. What we want to do is recognize what he did.”

The removal of the statue is part of a larger reckoning about who is honored and how history is taught. The movement, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, initially focused on Confederate symbols but has expanded to include historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Mason, who are linked to the persecution and murder of Native people.

Last summer, Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz made a call for more diversity among the statuary at the Capitol. There are 18 statues on the Capitol building itself, along with empty spots for eight more.

Only one depicts a woman: Ella Grasso of Windsor Locks, the nation’s first female governor elected in her own right.

The others include Thomas Hooker, who was known as the “father of Connecticut” and died in Hartford in 1647; former Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, who served as the state’s 16th governor and died in 1785; former U.S. Sen. Roger Sherman, who served as New Haven’s first mayor and died in 1793; and Gideon Welles, the former state comptroller and U.S. Navy secretary who was born in Glastonbury and died in 1878, the year the Capitol building was completed.

The newly adopted state budget does not contain a specific line item for the removal and reinstallation of the Mason statue, but it directs legislative management to complete the task.

Windsor’s town council voted last year to remove a statue of Mason on the town green there that was moved in 1996 from its original location at the site of the killings at the request of an Eastern Pequot tribal member. The statue would be relocated to the Windsor Historical Society.

Daniela Altimari can be reached at dnaltimari@courant.com.

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