A beheaded Christopher Columbus monument in Yonkers, New York is the latest victim of the racial injustice warriors attempting to rewrite our country’s history after nationalist groups converged in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city’s removal of a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee… with disastrous results.
Beloved by the Italian American community, Christopher Columbus’ legacy is under attack. The destroyed remains of the statue were discovered in a Yonkers park on Tuesday by Italian-American Patsy Gambardella Jr. Shocked to see the head of the statue chopped off, he immediately called the police to report the crime.
“I’m horrified that something like that has happened in Yonkers,” Gambardella said after finding the two-foot high bust knocked off its pedestal and broken into pieces. He added, “It’s very upsetting that American values have sunken to the level they are today. It’s unfortunate because I did go up there and I did see it all smashed.”
The head of the bronze-colored statue was found discarded next to a plastic bag in Columbus Memorial Park, a mile north of the Bronx.
Yonkers police are investigating the incident and told reporters that it could have been the overnight work of juveniles. They also acknowledged that there is a possibility it could be fallout from the deadly protests and counter-protests over a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. Then again, it may also have had something to do with the negative attention statues of Columbus have been getting in the New York City area (and elsewhere), which is famous for its large, proud Italian-American community.
Monuments dedicated to the famous explorer have been defaced and destroyed by those who believe that Columbus’ discovery of America was a racist move against Native Americans. In the current atmosphere of certain groups wanting to erase historical monuments of figures from the past, statues of famed explorer Christopher Columbus are being marked for removal throughout the country; others, like the statue in Yonkers, are being defaced by vandals who think they’re revolutionaries.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is leading the local movement to do away with the 76-foot-tall statue of Christopher Columbus that has reigned over the city’s Columbus Circle since it was erected in 1892 to mark the 400th anniversary of the explorer landing in America.
Italian Americans in the city are outraged.
De Blasio (an Italian American himself) has ordered a 90-day review to consider removing all “symbols of hate” from the city. A task force, to be put together by the mayor, will reportedly 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, responded to the issue at a Democratic mayoral election debate last week. Refusing to get into a discussion about specific statues, he said, “I’m not going to get into the name game here. We have to look at everything here.”
The Christopher Columbus statue was a gift to the city from a group of Italian Americans in 1892.
A group of around 100 people, led by Councilman Joe Borelli, gathered outside City Hall after hearing about de Blasio’s potential plans for the statue.
Some supporters of the statue say the issue isn’t about the man but about celebrating Italian American history. They pointed out that removing the statue would be a slippery slope as more and more public tributes are marked for removal.
“We can’t just desecrate a monument to [Italians] just because you don’t like what they did,” Gambardella observed.
One woman, Chantel Cleckley, said she thinks looking at oppressors every day is a bad reminder and believes such statues should have been removed. However, she doesn’t believe it should have been done by vandals. “I think it should be taken down, but I don’t think going about it [by] defacing it is the way to do it,” she said. “That just makes the other side angry.”
Italian-American politicians blasted de Blasio for considering the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus as part of a commission to ditch symbols of hate.
“You’ve chosen to reopen historical arguments that are 400 years old,” Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) said. “And your actions, whether you want to admit it or not, are going to be more divisive to New Yorkers than uniting.”
Borelli and others cited Columbus — who led expeditions on behalf of Spain that began Europe’s contact with the Americas — as a symbol of Italian-American pride. Others say that he colonized land already occupied by the Indians, and his arrival ultimately led to the death of large numbers of native people.
“That statue in Columbus Circle does not represent the explorer. It represents the experience of the Italian immigrant community who came here,” State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) said.
De Blasio, who marches in the annual Columbus Day Parade, has said little about Columbus, specifically, except that his yet-to-be created commission would consider all suggestions for monuments that may be offensive. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has said the commission should consider removing it, calling Columbus a “controversial figure,” before adding that she respected the contributions of Italian immigrants.
Joe Guagliardo of the National Council of Columbia Associations said that those who would destroy historical monuments are acting “like a terrorist.”
Assemblyman Ron Castorina (R-Staten Island) called the sudden movement to get rid of monuments “revisionist history.”
In a letter to the king and queen of Spain, Columbus wrote that he encountered no trouble from the native Taino people in 1492 — writing he’d “taken possession” of them for Spain and “no opposition was offered to me,” according to the Library of Congress.
Actor and radio host Joe Piscopo has acknowledged that Columbus had “flaws.”
“He’s flawed, we’re all flawed. I’m flawed,” Piscopo said. “Does that mean I’m not gonna get a rest stop named after me on the Jersey Turnpike?”