'Divisive' De Blasio, Viverito 'Encourage' Statue Vandalism; Malliotakis Says After Latest Incident
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Vandals defaced the statue of Christopher Columbus in Central Park Tuesday morning.
There were threats of more to come, and as CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, it happened as a city commission reviews which monuments could come down as symbols of hate.
Mayor Bill de Blasio happily walked into his Park Slope polling place, apparently unaware of the latest act of vandalism to stun the city.
The statue had the message "hate will not be tolerated" and "something's coming" scrawled on it. Columbus's hands were painted red, and a paper sign that read 'save your soul' was also found.
The Christopher Columbus statue is located near East 66th Street at the southern end of the mall walkway.
The statue was being cleaned up on Tuesday . A Central Park Conservancy worker power-washed the statue then scrubbed the blood-red paint from its hands, CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported.
"Vandalism doesn't do anything, even if they are against the concept of a Christopher Columbus statue," one woman told Sanchez.
"It's a shame, it's an awful shame that something like that should be defaced, you know, it belongs to the public," a tourist from Scotland said.
It was the third Columbus monument defaced in the are since de Blasio called for a commission to evaluate, and possibly remove symbols of hate from city land.
Council speaker Melissa Mark Viverito urged that the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle be included because the explorer brutalized natives in his traveled.
The Columbus bust in Yonkers was knocked off its pedestal and broken on August 29. A few days later the Columbus statue in Astoria's Columbus Triangle was targeted as well.
Requests to interview the mayor and council speaker were turned down.
"The mayor thinks vandalism is wrong and never the right approach to these conversations or monuments," said Press Secretary Eric Philips.
"Vandalizing and defacing public property is unacceptable and does nothing to facilitate necessary conversations about New York City's historical monuments," said Viverito's spokesperson Robin Levine.
Republican Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotakis had no problem weighing in.
"Our mayor and Council Speaker Viverito have encouraged this type of behavior," she said, "Instead of bringing people together, they're looking to be divisive because it motivates maybe their base, and that's not right to be doing this for political gain at the expense of unity in our city."
Police Commissioner James O'Neill said late Tuesday that it may mean an increase of police presence at the Columbus monuments.
"Anytime there seems to be something developing here, we would probably take additional steps – whether it's putting plain clothes out or cameras out," he said.
Last Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a special commission will evaluate public monuments on city property and offer recommendations on whether they should stay, be removed, or have plaques with additional information added to them.
The commission was created in the wake of the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. A woman was killed during a rally initiated by protests against the removal of the statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee.
The question of the fate of the statues has turned into an election issue, with Mayor de Blasio refusing to say whether he personally thinks the statue of Columbus should stay or be removed.
Some people say the controversy of keeping or not keeping statues has gone overboard.
"There are good parts about them and bad parts. We're all not perfect," one man told Sanchez. "But again, I don't think they should go down. They should just let them be."
So far, there's been no claim of responsibility for the vandalism. No arrests have been made.
Meanwhile, a number of groups have organized a "tear it down" rally in Columbus Circle tonight, calling for an end to "white supremacy and all symbols of oppression." The protest will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will march to CNN headquarters, which is nearby.
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