NEW YORK, United States — New York will keep its famed but controversial statue of Christopher Columbus following a review of “symbols of hate,” as the United States debates tributes to figures whose legacies are increasingly questioned.
Democratic Party Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the 90-day review after deadly violence at a neo-Nazi rally in Virginia last August built nationwide momentum to remove symbols of the pro-slavery Civil War South.
The commission recommended that just one of four statues on public land — that of a gynecologist who experimented on enslaved black women without anesthesia — be relocated from Central Park to a Brooklyn cemetery.
A plaque dedicated to Philippe Petain, a World War I hero who later collaborated with the Nazis and lead Vichy France, would remain in place, the commission recommended. De Blasio had initially said the plaque would be the first to go.
“Reckoning with our collective histories is a complicated undertaking with no easy solution,” said de Blasio.
“Our approach will focus on adding detail and nuance to — instead of removing entirely — the representations of these histories.”
As a result, information plaques about Columbus’s life will be added and a monument to indigenous people erected near the statue at the gateway to Central Park.
The commission also recommended adding “context such as wayfinding, on-site signage and historical information” to the Petain plaque on Broadway.
Columbus, the so-called man who “discovered America,” has been increasingly denounced as embodying the genocide of indigenous Americans.
Protesters have gathered in front of the statue to denounce “genocide” and “slavery.”
The 42-page report recommended moving a statue of J. Marion Sims from Central Park to Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery and taking steps to explain the legacy of a man regarded the father of modern gynecology.
It also recommended keeping a statue of former US president Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History, albeit with additional signage.
Critics complain that the monument is an image of racial hierarchy, depicting a triumphant Roosevelt on horseback looming over Native American and African men.