In New York City, the iconic Christopher Columbus statue in the world-famous Columbus Circle is a treasured symbol for Italian-American New Yorkers. However, when Mayor Bill de Blasio began talking about removing the 76-foot-tall statue in order to appease social justice warriors, he caused an total uproar.
In the wake of the clashes between right and left wing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, Mayor de Blasio (an Italian American himself) ordered a 90-day review to consider removing all “symbols of hate” from the America’s biggest city. He was planning to assemble a task force to review all statues and monuments in the city, consider their historical connections, and root out those that may suggest hate, division, racism or anti-Semitism.
De Blasio, who is running for re-election in November, is now reportedly backing down from his crusade against “symbols of hate” in the Big Apple amid significant political pressure, according to a report in Breitbart News.
De Blasio wouldn’t say whether or not Columbus would be removed, but Democratic City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “I think that that has to be looked at and we have to look at history. We have to look at it thoroughly. He is a controversial figure and I know that some may take offense to that but for many of us that come from the Caribbean islands, we see him as a controversial figure.”
De Blasio somewhat agreed. “I’m not going to get into the name game here,” he said when asked last week about Columbus, according to the New York Post. “We have to look at everything here.”
The suggestion of removing Columbus was met with widespread derision, with even the New York Times noting that such removals may “mobilize the right and alienate the center.” Such a focus from the mayor, when the more-pressing New York City subway system is being dogged by delays and malfunctions, is unlikely to make moderate New Yorkers want to vote for him.
Now, however, the mayor looks to be softening his stance. The Breitbart report points out that de Blasio’s rhetoric about tearing down statues has disappeared; and on Monday, he announced that he would be marching in the Columbus Day Parade in October as a “proud Italian American.”
As of yet, there has been no commission appointed. Instead, he tamped down expectations for the review, saying that in some cases, a plaque could be added to a statue, to offer “balance,” instead of pulling it down.
A spokesman for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested to the Times that the mayor’s backing down was a sign that he had stumbled into a political controversy without thinking it through:
“The Christopher Columbus monument has become the symbol of when you run into something rashly and don’t think it thoroughly through, you leave yourself open to criticism from places you don’t expect it,” William Cunningham said. “Here he is, a half Italian American and he’s getting grief from Italian Americans all over the City of New York.”
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