What to Know
- Controversy has swirled around Christopher Columbus statues and Christopher Columbus Day
- Critics say Columbus murdered and enslaved indigenous people; supporters say he is an Italian icon and history can't be wiped away
- Mayor de Blasio has come under fire for creating a commission to review statues that may be offensive, including a statue in Columbus Circle
Politicians came to the defense of a statue of Christopher Columbus and his eponymous holiday at a parade in the Bronx on Sunday.
“That statue has to remain in Columbus Circle,” State Senator Jeff Klein said.
The rain let up just in time for the thousands of marchers coming to take part in and watch the parade, where revelers waved Italian flags and took photos of a float with a giant bust of the explorer.
Steps away from the parade route in Morris Park, local leaders held a press conference in an effort to defend statues of Columbus they feel are under threat.
“That statue was built by the very immigrants that we celebrate here today on Columbus Day,” Klein said.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed a special commission to review all statues on city property that may be offensive, including the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle.
The move by the mayor led to him being “uninvited” to the event in the Bronx Sunday, where politicians started a petition to keep the Columbus Circle statue.
“When there’s talk about chopping down this statue, which is our gift to this city, we react,” State Sen. Diane Savino said.
Critics of Columbus say he was a ruthless explorer who treated indigenous people abhorrently. Some of his defenders have noted his importance to Italian heritage, while others have decried what they see as overreaching by activists trying to erase history.
Statues of Columbus have been the target of vandals in recent weeks. A Yonkers man was arrested after a statue was beheaded in that city, and a century-old statue in Central Park was splattered with red paint, the phrases "Hate will not be tolerated" and "#Somethingscoming" scrawled below it.
Three mayoral candidates were at the parade defending the statue in Columbus Circle.
Republican mayoral candidates Nicole Malliotakis said: “We cannot forget that Christopher Columbus was the one who connected two sides of the world.” She said the explorer “represents the immigrant experience.”
Bo Dietl, the independent candidate and former NYPD detective, wore a t-shirt to the parade that read, “Leave the statue alone.”
“This is our identity. And to take the identity of Italian Americans away is ridiculous,” he said.
Sal Albanese, who lost to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, didn’t come to the defense of Columbus but said the statue should stay.
“Columbus was controversial and he had his dark side, as many figures in history, but taking the statue down will cause a lot of division,” Albanese said.
De Blasio’s office sent a statement to NBC 4, saying there are no plans to remove the statue of Columbus, which has been under 24-hour police guard ahead of the controversial holiday.
The mayor will march in the Columbus Day Parade along Fifth Avenue, while the commission he set up to review statues will hold its first meeting later this week.