Council urges Mayor de Blasio to boot Thomas Jefferson statue from City Hall
This founder’s no keeper as far as some powerful New York City Council members are concerned.
A group of Big Apple local elected officials on Thursday formally asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove the statue of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall as the fallout from the George Floyd killing continued to mount.
“His words are ‘all men are created equal’ but they were not matched by his action, which included the ability to sell, buy, mortgage and lease human beings,” Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-Staten Island) said of the Founding Father who authored the Declaration of Independence.
“He believed black people to be racially inferior, said black Americans and white Americans could not live peacefully side by side and he fathered as many as six children with a woman he enslaved,” added Rose, who along with Council Speaker Corey Johnson was one of five members to sign the demand.
“I believe the New York City Council should neither ignore nor glorify this dark side of American history.”
But some council members quickly fired back, charging that Johnson and his allies were trying to erase history instead of respect it.
“I was totally appalled when I heard that, and ashamed to be a council member in that moment. At this point, you can go after any historical figure it seems,” said Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) Yes, we have blemishes in our past, and I can understand wanting to remove confederate generals’ statues.
He added: “But where does it end?”
Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), argued packing up the statue is the kind of move a totalitarian government would make.
“Someone should explain to me which civilization that banned or destroyed art has ever been considered liberal and progressive,” he said. “ISIS? The Communists? The Jacobins? Henry VIII? Who, tell me.”
The give-Jefferson-the-boot letter was sent to the de Blasio administration late Thursday.
City Hall’s historic status means any relocation must eventually be approved by de Blasio and the Public Design Commission, Johnson said.
It’s the latest example of how America is reexamining its view of major historical figures who took part in slave holding, the Confederacy and segregation following Floyd’s police-custody killing by Minneapolis police officers.
One of the officers was captured on tape kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the African American man cried out that he could not breathe.
The video of the arrest provided new momentum for the effort to move Jefferson’s statue from City Hall, which dates back two decades and was originally led by now-Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn).
Jefferson was the nation’s third president and is, perhaps, most famous for his contributions to the American Revolution, including crafting the Declaration.
However, in recent years, historians have unearthed volumes of information about Jefferson and his apparent relationship with a slave, Sally Hemings, with whom he fathered six children.
It’s not the only statue in New York City under the microscope. There have been repeated attempts to remove Christopher Columbus’ statute from Columbus Circle because of the navigator’s maltreatment and enslavement of indigenous people in the Caribbean.
A spokeswoman for de Blasio, who’s panel spared the Columbus statue, said they were reviewing the request.
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