New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t ruling out removing the statue of Christopher Columbus in the city’s famed Columbus Circle.
“We’re trying to unpack 400 years of American history here,” de Blasio, who is up for re-election in November, said Tuesday, according to the New York Post. “This is complicated stuff. But you know, it’s a lot better to be talking about it and trying to work through it than ignoring it because I think for a lot of people in this city and in this country, they feel that their history has been ignored or affronts to their history have been tolerated.”
The next day, at the Democratic mayoral debate, de Blasio said, “We have to look at everything here,” CBS News reported.
De Blasio’s comments came less than two weeks after violent clashes between white supremacists and anti-fascist counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Two Virginia State Police officers were also killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence.
White supremacists were protesting Charlottesville city leaders’ plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. City crews earlier this week covered up the Lee statue, as well as another statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, following a unanimous city council vote.
In the wake of the Charlottesville attack, cities and states across the country have responded by removing or relocating statues of other Confederate leaders.
In New York City, de Blasio vowed to remove any “symbols of hate” located in any of the city’s five boroughs.
De Blasio announced via Twitter last week the creation of a 90-day task force that will decide which monuments to remove and which to keep.
In the wake of Charlottesville, NYC will be conducting a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property. https://t.co/rDKpH6qgHD
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) August 17, 2017
WCBS-TV reported that the task force will be comprised of “relevant experts and community leaders,” although the mayor has not yet chosen them.
“To some extent the commission’s going to have to figure out what are the appropriate boundaries,” de Blasio said Tuesday, the Post reported. “We may end up doing this in stages because this is complex stuff.”
CBS News reported that those who support the removal of the 100-year-old, 76-foot Columbus statue say it’s necessary because Columbus was part of the slave trade and because of his treatment of Native Americans upon his arrival to the New World.
The Columbus statue was donated to New York City in 1892 by a group of Italian Americans. And now, it’s Italian-Americans who are urging de Blasio to leave the statue alone.
De Blasio, who is also part Italian, has previously marched in New York City’s Columbus Day parade. In recent years, however, some have said that the federal holiday focuses too much on the celebration of Italians and their heritage and not enough on Columbus’ trans-Atlantic journey.
Following New York City’s 2013 Columbus Day parade, de Blasio said the “historical figure of Columbus is complicated, to say the least.”
“There’s some troubling things in his history,” de Blasio said, the Post reported.