Thomas Jefferson statue removed from NY City Hall, 'Orwellian' move sparks outrage

The statue will be on a long-term loan to the New York Historical Society, which has agreed to keep the model in its reading room

                            Thomas Jefferson statue removed from NY City Hall, 'Orwellian' move sparks outrage
The original bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson by sculptor Pierre-Jean David at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC (Hulton Archive & Alex Wong/Getty Images)

An 884-pound statue of Thomas Jefferson was packed up in a wooden crate Monday after a mayoral commission secretly voted to oust the likeness of the nation's third president from New York's City Hall — where it was situated for nearly two centuries — because he owned slaves.

A team of art handlers with Marshall Fine Arts spent several hours carefully removing the plaster monument from its pedestal inside the City Council chambers, before surrounding it with foam and wooden boards. The massive structure was then lowered down the stairs leading to the building's first-floor rotunda with a pulley system and ushered out the back door. The 1833 statue will be on a long-term loan to the New York Historical Society, which has agreed to keep the model in its reading room.


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According to the New York Post, Keri Butler, executive director of the Public Design Commission (that voted to banish the statue), initially attempted to block the press from witnessing or reporting about its removal. However, he conceded after members of the mayor’s office and the City Council intervened. The commission reportedly also tried to vote on the statue's removal without a public hearing on the controversial move until the plan was revealed by the Post.



“Removing a monument without a public conversation about why it’s happening is useless. New Yorkers all need to talk about who we want to honor and why,” Erin Thompson, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the New York Post. Thompson — author of the forthcoming book “Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments" — said the removal could spark a broader understanding of history. “Moving this statue doesn’t mean New Yorkers will forget who Thomas Jefferson was — but some of them might learn from the controversy that the man who wrote ‘all men are created equal’ owned over 600 of his fellow humans,” she said.

Meanwhile, members of the City Council were split about the decision to remove the statue, depending on their political leaning. Minority leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) said the move was an attempt to “sideline history." Meanwhile, Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus co-chair, I.Daneek Miller (D-Queens) supported the decision to remove the monument because it didn't "represent contemporary values." That said, the original bronze statue by sculptor Pierre-Jean David is still on display in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. According to the Post, the plaster replica was gifted to City Hall by naval officer and Jefferson admirer, Uriah Phillips Levy, in 1834.

circa 1955: A family visiting the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. American statesman Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826) was the 3rd President of the United States of America and was also responsible for the writing of the Declaration of Independence. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, the decision to remove the monument from City Hall sparked a major backlash on social media. "This is a topic near & dear to my heart," journalist Kyle Becker tweeted. "Despite being a flawed man, Thomas Jefferson did more to emancipate mankind – including slaves – than anyone else of his era. The radical left's defamation of Jefferson is not a condemnation of slavery, but liberty."

"Frankly, Thomas Jefferson would probably rather not be associated with New York anyway," radio host Derek Hunter quipped. Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie quoted George Orwell's dystopian book '1984' in light of the move. "Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered… History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present…” Orwell," he tweeted. "It was never about the Confederacy. It was part of the cultural-Marxist revolution to erase the Founding Fathers," author J. Michael Waller chimed in.





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