Authorities have announced that a man has been charged in connection with the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue outside the Minnesota State Capitol in June.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office revealed Thursday that Michael Forcia, 56, of New Brighton, is facing one county of felony criminal damage to property over the June 10 incident.
It comes after the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office conducted an "extensive" investigation into the incident, putting together a 13,000-page investigative file.
According to the attorney's office, Forcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, acknowledged at the time that he wanted to be held accountable for the statue being pulled down, with the investigation finding he was the "organizer, leader, and executor of the incident."
Forcia had called the statue a "symbol of genocide," and while its removal was not mourned by members of the Native American community in Minnesota, among them Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, members of the Republican Party have long been calling for consequences for those involved in the statue's removal.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi suggested his office would be seeking a restorative punishment for Forcia.
"Given the impact of this action on residents across our state and the divisive reactions it has engendered, we believe administering justice in this case requires an extraordinary step – the active engagement and participation of our community,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
"We are working on developing a restorative process to give voice to those divergent opinions and bring people who hold them together to determine how best we hold Mr. Forcia accountable while healing our community from the harm that was caused."
"By employing restorative principles in a way that unites rather than divides us, we have a greater opportunity to achieve true justice for our community, to respond more meaningfully and in due time, rather than waiting more than a year for an adversarial trial that would not provide adequate closure for our community and likely create additional division. The pursuit of justice should always seek to unite a community rather than divide it."
Forcia identified himself at the scene of the statue as the chairman of the American Indian Movement Patrol Minneapolis.
The criminal complaint says state troopers were also at the scene and informed protesters about the correct process for removing a statue, but were told by protesters that they had already gone through that process with little joy.
"His stated hope was to have the statue removed as part of a larger effort to teach others about racism," according to Choi's office, which added that Forcia "declined to name others involved in the protest on June 10."