After statues of Christopher Columbus were defaced around the country this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he supports keeping Manhattan’s statue of the Italian explorer, saying it represents “the Italian-American legacy” in America.
Asked by a reporter at his daily coronavirus press briefing whether it is time for the 14-foot marble statue in Columbus Circle outside Central Park to go, Cuomo responded that while he understands the feelings surrounding the controversial historical figure, he supports keeping the monument.
“I understand the dialogue has been going on for a number of years,” Cuomo said. “The Christopher Columbus statue represents in some ways the Italian-American legacy in this country and the Italian-American contribution in this country.”
“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support,” continued the Democratic governor, who is of Italian heritage. “But the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York, so for that reason I support it.”
Statues of Columbus in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Minnesota were targeted on Tuesday night as protests continue against racism and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Protesters decapitated the Columbus statue in Boston, according to Boston police. A Columbus statue in Richmond was torn down, set on fire, and thrown into a lake after demonstrators covered the base in graffiti. Some protesters in Virginia held signs reading “Columbus represents genocide.” Outside the Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul on Wednesday, protesters threw a rope around a statue of Columbus and pulled it to the ground.
Vanessa Bolin of the Richmond Indigenous Society spoke to protesters in Richmond earlier in the day and likened the struggles of African-Americans to those of indigenous peoples in the U.S.
“This continent is built on the blood and the bones of our ancestors, but it is built off the backs and the sweat and the tears and the blood and the bones of Africans,” Bolin said. “We’re not here to hijack your movement. We’re here to stand in solidarity.”
Some cities and states have scrapped Columbus Day in recent years and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.