NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Protesters are calling for the removal of Christopher Columbus statues around the country, and many have been toppled. But others argue – “do the research,” he should stay.
In Camden, New Jersey, the statue of Christopher Columbus was taken down by city officials. Members of the community stepped in and decapitated it, angry the city removed it ahead of a large march planned for tomorrow.
Many say they’ve wanted it gone for years.
“Christopher Columbus to us, as black Americans, represents a privatizer, a colonizer, a rapist, and many other things,” said Camden resident Ronsha Dickerson.
In a statement, the mayor of Camden said in part “It is long overdue, but we must now establish a plan to reexamine these outdated symbols of racial division and injustices.”
Across the country, statues of Columbus have been vandalized or taken down, either by protesters or local governments: In Houston, Texas, Minnesota, and Richmond, Virginia.
Protesters say the Italian explorer, credited in history textbooks for discovering the new world, is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.
Italian American groups like the Sons of Italy say Columbus’ contributions shouldn’t be forgotten.
“Do the research and look at what actually happened. We have done research with the Italian organizations in this country and again – you are going back to 1492. The culture and behavior at that time is nowhere like it is today. But I think the research on the other side only goes so far,” said John DiBattista of the Sons of Italy.
When asked Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he supported the statue at Columbus Circle.
“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some his acts, which nobody would support. But, the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York.”
CBS2’s Alice Gainer asked Mayor Bill de Blasio if he was planning on revisiting this.
“The commission did really careful extensive work. Really good, devoted people who care about understanding all of history, and the care about social justice,” de Blasio said. “And they came up with a vision for how to address this and we should, I think, just stick to what was achieved by that commission.”
“I don’t like what it represent you know, but it don’t bother me,” one person said.
“I don’t see any reason to bring it down. It’s history. It’s hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said another.
“I think it could go. I think it could go,” another said.
Gainer also asked the mayor if he was concerned about people taking matters into their own hands and trying to topple the statue. He didn’t answer that directly, instead saying he was concerned with reform and keeping people safe.