NEW YORK CITY — Controversial Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to be backing down from his crusade against “symbols of hate” in the Big Apple amid significant political pressure.
In the wake of the clashes between right and left-wing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to a surge in calls from the left for the removal of Confederate statues and monuments across the country, de Blasio got on board with the trend and said he would conduct a 90-day review of all “symbols of hate” on city property.
After the violent events in Charlottesville, New York City will conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 16, 2017
He later refused to say that Christopher Columbus’ statue in the world-famous Columbus Circle would not be removed as part of the left’s iconoclasm. This fear was stoked when fellow Democrat and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito suggested that Columbus could be purged.
“I think that that has to be looked at and we have to look at history,” she said, according to the Observer. “We have to look at it thoroughly. He is a controversial figure and I know that some may take offense to that but for many of us that come from the Caribbean islands, we see him as a controversial figure.”
De Blasio also said it needed to be looked at.
“I’m not going to get into the name game here,” the mayor said when asked last week about Columbus, according to the New York Post. “We have to look at everything here.”
The suggestion of removing Columbus was met with widespread derision, with even the New York Times noting that such removals may “mobilize the right and alienate the center.” Such a focus from the mayor when the New York City subway system is being dogged by delays and malfunctions is unlikely to warm him to many moderate New Yorkers.
But since then, de Blasio appears to have backed down somewhat. His rhetoric about tearing down statues has disappeared and on Monday he announced that he would be marching in the Columbus Day Parade in October as a “proud Italian-American.”
As of yet, there has been no commission appointed and on Monday, he tamped down expectations for the review, saying that in some cases a plaque could be added to a statue to offer “balance,” instead of pulling it down.
A spokesman for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested to the Times that his backing down was a sign that he had stumbled into a political controversy without thinking it through:
“The Christopher Columbus monument has become the symbol of when you run into something rashly and don’t think it thoroughly through, you leave yourself open to criticism from places you don’t expect it,” William Cunningham said. “Here he is, a half Italian-American and he’s getting grief from Italian Americans all over the City of New York.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY