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Protests Bring Renewed Calls To Tear Down Controversial Statues, Rename Streets In New York City

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Protesters in New York and across the country are zeroing in on statues and renewing calls to remove those they see as symbols of white supremacy.

From Christopher Columbus to a statue of a confederate general, controversial monuments are being toppled, beheaded and vandalized across the country.

The movement spreading to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where the demand to rename streets for Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are resurfacing.

"I want action. I'm tired of talking, 'cause we've been talking since I was a kid," Michael Brown, of the West Side, told CBS2's Christina Fan.

"That would be my vote as well. Take it down. I don't see any black faces around here," said Lawrence Carr, of the West Side.


On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on military officials to remove Lee's name.

He was backed by Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson, a descendant of those once enslaved on Lee's plantation.

"It's really hard for us to really feel fully part of this country that celebrates our enslavement with names like that on military bases," Thompson said.

RELATED STORY -- NYC Deputy Mayor Calls For Removal Of Robert E. Lee's Name: 'This Is An Emotional Issue For Many People Like Me'

The death of George Floyd has reignited the debate over the racism these effigies represent.

Historian Cheryl Greenberg says although history should be preserved, these figures should not be honored.

"If we represent the past by valorizing slave owners, that's a problem. If we valorize the past by celebrating out now vicious racists who happen to come upon the Americas, that's also a problem," Greenberg said.

Columbus Circle
A 76-foot statue of explorer Christopher Columbus stands in Columbus circle on August 23, 2017. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

American Indians say the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle is part of the problem.

"An entire society is upholding this monster that committed pretty much like the American Holocaust on our people," said Iakowi:he'ne' Oakes, with American Indian Community House.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the statute's place, saying it's not a symbol of oppression.

"The statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York, so for that reason I support it," he said.

The NYPD says there have been threats on social media to the statue.

Precautions are now in place to protect it.

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