NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD has assigned a team of bodyguards to the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle. The debate over the monument’s symbolism has been building for months.

If the NYPD could have put Christopher Columbus in the witness protection program they probably would have. Instead, they have to protect the explorer’s statue in Columbus Circle as best they can.

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“I understand the security is going to be high. I understand it’s going to be intense,” Joseph Guagliardo, President of the Confederation of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations said.

Guagliardo was talking about security for the annual wreath laying at the statue on Sunday, which will include a number of precautions that are also part of the anti-terror plan.

“My guess is you’ll also see a garbage truck or sanitation truck, or a fire truck,” Guagliardo said.

With the statue controversy raging, and a man arrested recently for trying to deface the statue, barricades now keep people away, cops are assigned around the clock, and high tech cameras along with a mobile NYPD command center are in place.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Guagliardo said, “It’s seriously a sad state of affairs.”

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The security comes as Italian American leaders continue to battle Mayor Bill de Blasio over his decision to name a commission to evaluate Columbus as a symbol of hate.

Connie Stallone came all the way from California to see the statue. She said she was shocked to see the barricades.

“I’m glad they’re protecting that statue,” she said. “The fact that there are people who want to deface it, knock it down, and take away the little bit of Italian American pride that we have left makes me very sad.”

The mayor will not be marching in the Bronx Columbus Day Parade on Sunday. He pointedly was not invited, but on Monday he’ll be among 35,000 marchers at the annual parade in Manhattan — the warmth of his reception remains to be seen.

The mayor’s Thursday night, Italian American Heritage Celebration is being boycotted by dozens of community groups.

Actor Chazz Palminteri was to be Thursday’s honoree, but he is also boycotting the event. The City’s Emergency management Commissioner, Joseph Esposito will be honored.

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