City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is calling for the statue of Christopher Columbus to be reviewed for removal due to the Italian explorer’s troubling history. Here’s everything you need to know.
Following the tragic events in Charlottesville, where a protest against the removal of a statue of General Robert E Lee cost the life of a peaceful counter-protester, many national monuments are now under the spotlight.
As a reaction, Mayor de Blasio called for a 90-day review of all “symbols of hate” in the city last Thursday.
After the violent events in Charlottesville, New York City will conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 16, 2017
On Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for the 76-foot monument at Columbus Circle to be among the statutes under review. The comment came while the council speaker was advocating for the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims (103rd street and 5th Avenue), a figure reviled for conducting medical experiments on slaves without anesthesia.
The Columbus Circle monument was a gift from Italian Americans to the city in 1892, and while Columbus is hailed as the discoverer of America and a great explorer by some, he is seen as a plunderer and a tyrant by many others. In an article by the NYPost, Mark-Viverito had this to say:
“There obviously has been ongoing dialogue and debate in the Caribbean — particularly in Puerto Rico where I’m from — about this same conversation that there should be no monument or statue of Christopher Columbus based on what he signifies to the native population… [the] oppression and everything that he brought with him,”
Columbus is a hero to many Italian-Americans, De Blasio himself has marched Columbus Day Parade, but despite his Italian heritage Mayor De Blasio does recognize that Christopher Columbus is a divisive figure. At a press conference in 2013 the Mayor admitted to mixed feelings about the historical figure:
“Columbus is complicated to say the least,” […] I don’t know how I feel about that, as an Italian-American. […] It’s very complicated, […] There are some troubling things in his history.”
We’ll see this complicated and delicate issue play out over the coming months. No matter how you feel about the statue it’s clear that a dialogue is needed in the near future. We’ll keep you posted.
Featured image source [Wikimedia Commons]