- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The future location of a statue of Thomas Jefferson remains unclear after New York City officials voted unanimously to remove it from City Hall‘s legislative chambers.

“My guess is they’ll put it in some remote place out of view. But the damage has already been done,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Mr. Donohue, who testified in defense of statues before the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers in November 2017, said Jefferson‘s symbolism in debates over racism makes the statue vulnerable to Black Lives Matters protests if it remains in public.

“This is all about scrubbing our history of senior figures simply because they had a flawed side to them, but that’s true of all human beings. Except for maybe Mother Teresa, we’re all flawed human beings,” he said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the city’s Public Design Commission did not return a telephone call from The Washington Times requesting additional information about the statue’s future.

New York City officials attending a meeting of the Public Design Commission voted unanimously Monday to remove the 7-foot-tall statue of the nation’s third president from the City Council’s chambers in City Hall.

Council member Inez Barron said during the meeting that the statue does not deserve “a position of honor and recognition and tribute” because Jefferson “felt that Blacks were inferior to Whites.”

New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron, a Democrat and self-described “elected activist” who lobbied to remove the statue when he represented Brooklyn’s 42nd District on the City Council from 2001 to 2013, has said repeatedly that the statue should be removed from all public access.

“I think it should be put in storage or destroyed or whatever,” Mr. Barron said.

A former member of the Black Panther Party who opposes the Pledge of Allegiance and refuses to salute the American flag, Mr. Barron has frequently hit President Jefferson as a racist for owning slaves.

He has long created headlines on race issues for controversial comments about slapping White people “just for my mental health,” supporting Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi as an “African freedom fighter,” and opposing public charter schools for Blacks.

But at Monday’s meeting, Mr. Barron’s views on Jefferson seemed at times to reflect the current majority of the 51-member New York City Council.

“The bottom line is that there is no educational purpose for the statue to be in City Hall chambers,” Council member Adrienne Adams said.

Ms. Adams supported the commission’s initial proposal to loan the statue permanently to the New York Historical Society, a private entity that planned to display it along with historic information about slavery.

But division emerged at the meeting when some public art advocates and commission members proposed moving the statue to the Governor’s Room at City Hall, arguing it would be more fitting to display Jefferson with other “slaveholders” there than to loan him to a for-profit museum.

As a result, the commission withdrew its original plan and promised to find a new location “where it remains in the public realm” after it’s removed by the end of this year.

The statue, a plaster copy of an original work by French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers that stands in the Capitol rotunda of the U.S. Congress, has been in New York’s City Council chambers for more than 100 years.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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