Journal Square Community Association hosts debate about future of Columbus statue

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The Journal Square Community Association hosted a virtual debate last night over whether or not the Christopher Columbus statue in the plaza should be removed.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

“History is subjective. It is often compromised of composite narratives. It is often fashioned by those with the most power,” said James Dievler, who moderated the forum.

Jae Yi, a resident of Journal Square, argued that the statue has overstayed its welcome.

He said it made sense to take down a statue that “no longer represented our values.”

Yi noted that in 1776 after a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a statue of King George III in New York City was taken down.

“It would be akin to a colonist in 1776 saying we need to keep the statue of King George … Christopher Columbus’s crimes were vile in even his time,” exclaiming that the often renowned Italian explorer was responsible for murders, rapes, and sadistic torture.

He said that there are countless other Italian Americans with far better track records who deserve to be acknowledged, mentioned 1984 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro and Dr. Anthony Fauci as possible alternatives.

Angelo Estrada expressed a different point of view, explaining that since he is half Italian and half Puerto Rican, he has been conflicted on the issue for some time.

“It’s very sad … I honor him for discovering America. I don’t really honor him for the atrocious things.”

Meanwhile, Dante Alighieri Society for Italian Americans President Albert Cupo argued against removing the statue.

“The statue itself represents a source of pride, not only for Italian people, but people who have come through Jersey City,” Cupo said.

The statue was unveiled in 1950. Cupo said it was previously across from the Loew’s Theater in Journal Square, but then moved to its present location in the 1980s.

“That statue represents everybody,” Cupo said.

He added Jersey City has an annual Columbus Day Parade where his organization places a wreath on the statue on Columbus Day.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be here, probably.”

Cupo also pointed out that due to the construction of One Journal Square Plaza, the statue will likely need to be moved anyway.

Others were not as forgiving when looking at Columbus’ track record as a whole.

“The Taino people in the DR [Dominican Republic] were essentially exterminated. In the DR, Columbus is seen, more like a bringer of genocide, a conquistador. I personally believe that a replacement statue should honor indigenous people,” asserted Carlos Fernandez.

“The Italians needed a hero to connect with the American people and picked Columbus. There’s plenty of great Italian people we can honor that’s not as divisive … Just put [Frank] Sinatra up there.”

From there, John Hallanan argued in favor of the statue remaining at its current location.

“Not everyone’s a saint … Nobody talks about the guys in Africa that captured these guys … and put the abled-bodied ones on ships that were part of the slave trade. Nobody does it like your own people,” he stated.

Still, not everyone who participated in the Zoom call shared that perspective.

“Christopher Columbus was a colonizer, a kidnapper, and a slaver. We absolutely should not honor him … Like Confederate statues, it represents hate to many people,” said Dana Patton.

She added that her family is Italian and that she still believes an indigenous statue would be better served that one of Columbus.

“As Italian Americans, we have to stop honoring mobsters or monsters.”

“As a kid going to school in the 50s and 60s, we learned nothing about Columbus’ treatment of indigenous people,” said JSCA Secretary Bill Armbruster.

Armbruster said that after hearing the arguments, he was personally swayed to say its time to remove the statue

“I’m sure within 50 or 100 years of Columbus, other explorers would have discovered the new world. Perhaps they would have been as brutal as Columbus, perhaps they would have been more benign,” Armbruster said.

Martin Pierce said the statue should be moved to Hudson Community College where a program on the nature of Columbus could be developed

“Columbus should not be honored. He promoted genocide. He promoted slavery. The statue should be moved,” Pierce said.

“He never set foot here,” added Julie Burna, who pointed out that Columbus discovering the Western Hemisphere, but not North America.

“The conditions at the colony were so atrocious … he was sent back to Spain in chains.”

Burna also contended that Columbus instituted systemic racism that is still plaguing us today. But yet again, others on the call felt otherwise.

“A professor at Harvard disputes what was said about Columbus,” began William Sventola.

“It was our way to be assimilated … He was almost considered for sainthood. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, maybe we should do a little homework.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. Our anger is growing from all the crying these young socialists keep making in order to tear something they do not understand nor care about how significant it may be to their neighbors:

    -James Dievler: “History is subjective. It is often compromised of composite narratives. It is often fashioned by those with the most power.” Yeah, and they are usually knocked-down by those looking to archive the most power.

    -If Jae Yi had bothered to really study our Revolutionary history he would have realized that when the statue of George III was brought down the context of that action was within the 18 century they were living in, they were affected by the symbolism that statue carried at that time. Looking to bring down a statue as the Columbus one who is 5 centuries removed from ours and has no bearing to how we live in our current society carries a different message and purpose, one similar to what was experienced recently in China during the Mao years.

    -Carlos Fernandez needs to pay real attention to his own country of origin because the Taíno population there still exists; just because they look mostly black instead of with lacy hair wearing loincloths does not mean they are not there- unless his prejudiced view doesn’t allow him to accept that. Furthermore, in the DR the Columbus statue in Ciudad Colonial also has Anacaona represented with it and in other spots of the island there are statues of Hatuey and Enriquillo represented. Those historical figures have NO connection with the United States, likewise replacing any other Indigenous figure in the US does not have a connection with Columbus; mix-matching with this kind of rationale is ignorant!

    -For all attendees: It is NOT of your business to decide what an ethnic group should have used to represent their identity. Do they come to your house and paint it over a different color because they don’t like your stanky house color?

    Go back and really research the story of Columbus from real books instead of rattling off-the-cuff information from the internet. And start learning to respect your neighbors. Hopefully this will prevent you from professing your ignorance in front of all that you are showing right now.

  2. You, the people of this committee, are showing yourselves to be among the dumbest, most uneducated, and most ignorant bigots, in this country. I can’t believe that you don’t know the lies you are spreading. You are no different from the rioters who are looting and burning down America’s property. In other words, you have joined the ranks of the marxist-backed revolutionaries and terrorists.
    If you continue on this path, then your insurgent behavior won’t be the end of the matter – it will only be the beginning. There are over SIXTY MILLION Italian Americans and Hispanics in this country, whose national identity is being destroyed. This is the real genocide and you are committing it. All of the above, and much more, is true. We will PROVE IT, and you will be held responsible for the great damage that is being done.

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