Statues of famous figures are being taken down across the country as protests against historical injustices. In Hudson County residents are calling for the removal of Christopher Columbus statues and the renaming of streets dedicated to him.
An online petition 764 signatures as of July 2 calls for the removal of all tributes commemorating Columbus throughout the county.
“Columbus was a known slaver of indigenous people, and facilitated the sexual exploitation of indigenous women and girls as young as nine; Our citizens must endure the daily anguish of this tribute, a tribute to a man that profited in blood and pain,” states the petition.
The petition notes that by celebrating genocidal episodes in history in parks, schools, and transportation systems, the nation “bears daily witness to systemic racism, covertly and overtly,” which is both “painful and terrifying for communities of color.”
In Hoboken, Pastor Elaine Thomas spoke during a council meeting last month asking for the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Park, a county park in Hoboken, to be removed. She said the man it honors caused the genocide and enslavement of many native people, among other atrocities.
The statue, created by Archimedes Giacomantonio, in 1937 is a bronze depicting Columbus with a sword hanging from his belt and a cross around his neck, on a granite pedestal.
“Right here in Hoboken we honor a man who was a rapist, an enslaver, and a sex trafficker of girls as young as nine,“ said Thomas who noted that his brutality is well documented and yet he is honored because of “the myth that he discovered America.”
“What Columbus brought the Americas was genocide,” said Thomas, also branding him with the Transatlantic slave trade. “And yet here in the U.S. memorials, parks, and streets are dedicated to one of the most despicable explorers whoever set out on a voyage.”
She said there are plenty of great Italian Americans who could be honored in his stead and could be a source of pride for residents.
She said that Hoboken doesn’t have any monuments to the Lenape, Native Americans who called Hoboken home before the settlers came, and said that those who argue that removing the statue and renaming the park are erasing history are incorrect because it’s not erasing history but “rightly honoring our heritage.”
However, Hoboken resident and Republican Committeeman Joshua Sotomayor Einstein has started an online petition to make sure the statue of Christopher Columbus remains in the park.
“In light of the recent rioting and attacks on important historical statues across the nation, we the citizens of Hudson County demand the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders protect Columbus Park and the Columbus statue in it (located in Hoboken),” states the online petition he started.
“Columbus, a source of pride for over a hundred years for Italian Americans, is remembered for opening up the New World for European settlement – shaping the world the we live in today – and should be publicly remembered for his impact on the modern world.”
“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue,” said Einstein. “The public efforts of unelected nihilistic totalitarians to tear down history fails to right any past wrongs, ignores that we celebrate historical figures despite their flaws not because of them, and erases our shared heritage.”
As of July 2, the petition had 75 signatures.
Jersey City’ s Columbus tributes
In Jersey City, 1,689 people have signed an online petition calling on the mayor and city council to remove the statue of Columbus in Journal Square.
The statue has stood since 1950. Sculptor Archimedes Giacomantonio portrayed the explorer hoisting a cross, with a sword hanging at his waist.
The petition states it would be antithetical to the city’s mission and status as the most diverse city in the country to promulgate his statue considering his “crimes against humanity” which include the mass rape of Native American women, selling girls as young as 9 into sexual slavery, brutalities such as cutting off Native Americans’ ears and hands leaving them to bleed to death, enslaving Native Americans, and the mass genocide of Native Americans, leading to a population decrease from 300,000 to 500 in 50 years.
The petition cites Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” as the source for its allegations.
But statues aren’t the only tributes to Columbus that residents are seeking to remove.
An online petition by resident Sarah Karp Ward which has garnered 1,026 signatures as of July 2 seeks to rename Columbus Drive in downtown Jersey City.
In a press release, Karp notes that despite his past horrific acts “Christopher Columbus is sadly still honored with a federal holiday, statues, and parades across America.”
In the last few years, many cities and states, as well as private and public businesses, have renamed Christopher Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In this same vein the petition suggests removing the “symbol of genocide” by renaming the street to Indigenous Peoples Drive or Black Lives Matter Drive.
A bust in Bayonne
While Jersey City and Hoboken face criticism over their monuments, things are different elsewhere in Hudson County.
In Bayonne, there is only one statue of the controversial Italian explorer. A bust of Christopher Columbus stands in Mary Griffith Peters Sculpture Garden at the Bayonne Public Library at 697 Avenue C.
Domenico Mazzone made the bust from bronze in 1980. Its unique setting in the public library makes an interesting case whether or not residents will petition for its removal.
There’s a Columbus Drive in Bayonne. But the street is just a dead-end residential neighborhood near the wind turbine.
Despite the change.org petition calling for the removal of all Columbus tributes in Hudson County, there’s no visible traction in support of removing the Columbus statue at the sculpture garden in the public library, nor the renaming of the street.
The movement against monuments (or lack of one)
In North Hudson, there are three Columbus statues, in Secaucus, Union City, and West New York.
In Secaucus, a bust of Columbus sits near Paterson Plank Road and Humboldt Street. However, it is not clear by whom or when it was sculpted.
In West New York, a Columbus statue sits in Christopher Columbus Park. Made by Fabian Zaccone in 1958, the statue is a stone column with a relief of Columbus kneeling and raising aloft a rolled map on one side and a relief of Columbus’s fleet on the other.
In Union City, another statue by Archimedes Giacomantonio stands in Ellsworth Park at 24th Street and New York Avenue. Made in 1979, the bronze bust on a granite pedestal joins those in Hoboken and Jersey City as his three Hudson County Columbus monuments.
As in Bayonne, there are no specific calls for the removal of the statues and renaming of tributes in Secaucus, Union City, and West New York
If momentum grows for the removal of Columbus tributes, these statues’ days may be numbered.