MANHATTAN — Organizations dedicated to preserving the history of Christopher Columbus have strongly criticized the recent obscene vandalizing of a Midtown monument to the explorer, calling it an “unfortunate” act of “political violence.”
Less than three weeks after police removed a protective barrier that had surrounded the Columbus Circle statue since last summer, the message “—- Columbus” was spray-painted on the base of the monument last weekend.
A spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus’ national headquarters told The Tablet that the organization condemned the act of vandalism as a crime against all who cherish democracy and mutual respect, and called the “attack” unfortunate.
“We believe that society must have civil debate on serious issues and social challenges and not settle differences with violence and destruction,” the spokesperson added. “This attack on the statue of Christopher Columbus is very unfortunate and only makes real dialogue more difficult. The Knights of Columbus remains firm in its condemnation of all forms of racism and violence, including political violence.”
The metal barricade was installed around the 75-foot monument after protests were held in New York City and nationwide following the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody. At the time, police sources identified the Columbus statue as a “known target,” as protesters toppled other controversial monuments across the country and around the world.
In New York, activists demanded that the Columbus Circle monument be taken down and the circle be renamed, citing the explorer’s involvement in slavery and violence toward Native Americans. Those efforts were rebuffed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said the statue commemorates important Italian-American contributions to the U.S.
The nationwide movement by protestors to tear down and vandalize statues of Christopher Columbus is concerning, according to Andre DiMino, a member of the Italian American One Voice Coalition organization.
“This is unacceptable and yet another example of revisionist history when it comes to the Admiral of the Sea,” DiMino said in a statement issued in response to the vandalizing of the Columbus Circle statue.
Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, an organization that works to preserve the history of Christopher Columbus nationwide, went further, saying the desecration of the New York City monument should prompt an effort to protect all statues of the explorer.
Vivolo said it makes no sense to cancel Italian-American heritage instead of “educating all generations of the imperfect passage of the human race.”
“Five generations ago, impoverished Italian Americans built this statue in Columbus Circle and symbolized exploration, discovery, and Italian-American identity,” Vivolo said in a statement.