Members of the New York City Council are demanding the removal of a Thomas Jefferson statue from City Hall amid cries across the county to tear down statues and landmarks that have connections to slavery.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilmembers Debi Rose, Inez Barron, Adrienne Adams and I. Daneek Miller, all Democrats, wrote a letter Thursday to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for the removal the statue to be taken out of the Council Chambers of City Hall.
“In the last few weeks, New Yorkers have called on all of us in elected office to make bold change so that communities of color feel heard, protected and represented,” the letter stated.
“There are disturbing images of divisiveness and racism in our City that need to be revisited immediately. That starts with City Hall.”
The council members call the statue of Jefferson “inappropriate” and say it “serves as a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country.”
“Jefferson is America’s most noted slave holder, a man who owned more than 600 Black women and men and a scholar who maintained that Blacks were inferior to whites,” the council members wrote.
They asked for de Blasio’s support in removing the statue, saying that it “sends a terrible message to the people who are counting on us to work towards a more equitable New York City.”
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The call for the statue’s removal echoes the call for several statues and landmarks in New York City to be removed or have their names changed in the wake of protests that have erupted across the county in response to the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Local lawmakers have called on the Army to rename the streets named in honor of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, WPIX-TV reported.
“[Lee’s] name should be taken off everything in America period,” de Blasio told the station.
Protesters destroyed statues of Christopher Columbus in Virginia and Massachusetts as well, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo refused to remove the one from Columbus Circle.
“I understand the feeling about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts which nobody would support, but the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York,” Cuomo said. “So for that reason, I support it.”
Brooklyn Historian Ron Schweiger told WPIX that taking down statues and renaming streets won’t erase history.
“They represent a part of history, whether it’s New York history or American history,” Schweiger told the station.
“Whether you like it or not, what they thought of, what they did, it’s still part of the history.”
He added that considering everything going on right now, the removal of certain statues and landmarks is “worth discussing.”
“Depends upon the person, what they did, how much of their history is involved behind it,” Schweiger said.
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