De Blasio and Cuomo announce plans to eradicate ‘symbols of hate’ in New York

August 17, 2017

Image via Alisdare Hickson/flickr

After a violent weekend led by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, New York officials have announced plans to review and remove controversial public structures. Mayor de Blasio said on Wednesday the city will conduct a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate on city property,” by putting together a panel of experts and community leaders who will make recommendations for items to take down (h/t NY Post). On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo called upon the United States Army to reconsider its decision to keep the street names that honor Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, two Confederate leaders, at Fort Hamilton. Cuomo also announced the removal of the busts of Lee and Jackson from CUNY’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans in the Bronx.

General Lee Avenue, Robert E. Lee house Brooklyn, Fort Hamilton

General Lee Avenue and Robert E. Lee’s former home on Fort Hamilton, via Jeremy Bender/Business Insider

Last Saturday, white nationalists and KKK members held rallies as protest against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. In response to the violence caused by these hate groups, de Blasio said the city will begin a review of symbols of hate throughout the city. He followed up and tweeted that the “commemoration for Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain in the Canyon of Heroes will be one of the first we remove.”

Assemblymember Dov Hikind who represents Brooklyn has previously called for that plaque’s removal, as well as another one that honors Pierre Laval, another Nazi-collaborator. “This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” Hikind told the Post. “Painful and obvious symbols of hate, such as statues and markers commemorating Nazi collaborators or proponents of slavery, are antithetical to everything our city stands for. Statues and plaques to villains have no place on New York City public property.”

On the same day a church in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn removed two plaques that honored Robert E. Lee, Cuomo requested the Army change the names of two streets there, named in honor of Lee and Jackson. Back in June, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, along with other New York Democrats, wrote a letter to the Army asking for the street names to be removed and changed. They rejected her request for new street names, claiming it was “contrary to the nation’s original intent in naming these streets, which was the spirit of reconciliation.”

According to the New York Times, Cuomo, in his letter to the acting secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, wrote: “The events of Charlottesville and the tactics of white supremacists are a poison in our national discourse, and every effort must be made to combat them.” He added, “Renaming these streets will send a clear message that in New York, we stand against intolerance and racism, whether it be insidious and hidden or obvious and intentional.”

President Trump on Thursday said it was “foolish” to remove Confederate memorials. In a tweet, the president said, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” In a tweet that followed: “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

[Via NY Post, NY Times]


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