COLUMBUS CIRCLE — On Columbus Day, the husband-wife duo of Assemblyman Charles Barron and City Councilwoman Inez Barron called for the removal of the city's most prominent statue of Christopher Columbus, and for the holiday itself to be renamed and repurposed.
"Columbus is not a hero," Barron said at a press conference in Columbus Circle. "He's a murderer, he's a colonist, he's a racist, and he should not be glorified or honored."
The Assemblyman introduced a bill late last month to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day, shifting the focus from the controversial Italian explorer to instead acknowledge and promote Native American culture. Dozens of municipalities across the country have already adopted Indigenous People's Day, including the recent addition of Los Angeles in August.
Debate around the explorer's history has ramped up in the city in the last several weeks as Mayor Bill de Blasio recently formed a commission that would take a 90-day review of city "monuments seen as oppressive," which includes the Columbus Circle statue. The panel's first meeting is scheduled for the day after Columbus Day.
While Assemblyman Barron isn't part of the review commission, he said he wants to remove the statue, and also suggested renaming the Columbus Day Parade the Italian American Day Parade.
Councilwoman Inez Barron said she will be introducing a resolution to support her husband's Assembly bill, adding that while she couldn't predict the amount of support it would get, it would at least serve as an opportunity for her colleagues to take a side.
"We already know several councilmembers have stated their positions and others have not," Councilwoman Barron said. "This will be an opportunity to make themselves clearly defined as to where they stand on the issue."