San Jose, CA – On August 4, around 70 people gathered to celebrate the removal of the Thomas Fallon statue that had stood at the corner of West Julian Street and Notre Dame Avenue in San Jose for over 20 years. Fallon was a captain of the U.S. military during the Mexican-American War and captured San Jose in 1846. In the 1850s, he returned to the area and began a political career, culminating in a one-year term as mayor of San Jose in 1859. His time in public office took place during a period of genocide against the indigenous peoples of California, as well as the oppression and disenfranchisement of Mexican people in California.
The removal celebration was hosted by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, the indigenous people of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Centro Aztlan Chicomoztoc, a community organizing center that focuses on the Mexican, Chicano, and indigenous communities of San Jose.
The celebration began with a cleansing ceremony at the removal site, including prayer songs. Julie Dominguez, Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Ambassador, read a Tribal Land Acknowledgment. Community members spoke about the 30 year long community struggle against the statue, beginning with the original commissioning of the piece in the 1980s and culminating in the successful removal of the statue on April 24, 2023.
The group then proceeded to the corner of Almaden Boulevard and West San Carlos Street, also known as the historic Holiday Inn site. Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh spoke about how ancestral remains of the Muwekma Ohlone people were uncovered at the site during the construction of the Holiday Inn in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her mother, former Tribal Chairwoman Rosemary Cambra, was arrested in the 1980s while protesting for the respectful repatriation of the remains to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.
Next, the procession moved to the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, before finally gathering at Saint James Park. Omar Torres, San Jose city councilmember for District 3, which includes the site of the former statue, gave a speech about how the Fallon statue symbolized genocide and oppression. Citlalmina Ortiz from Centro Aztlan Chicomoztoc spoke about how the Mexican-American War was an act of aggression by the U.S., launching a period of oppression for Mexican, Chicano and indigenous people in San Jose that continues through the present day.
Tribal Chairwoman Nijmeh spoke about the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s ongoing fight for federal recognition, including their efforts to get the San Jose City Council to pass a resolution in support of federal recognition. She encouraged those gathered to continue fighting for what is right, as the campaign to remove the Fallon statue was only successful due to the tenacity and organizing power of the people of San Jose.