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Councilmember Rivera: ‘White supremacist’ Cox statue must go

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The U.S. Postal Service is under attack by Trump. Meanwhile, locally, a statue of the so-called “Letter Carriers’ Friend,” Congressmember Samuel S. Cox, is under scrutiny — and perhaps could even be under physical attack, too, if not for being constantly guarded by police.

The Cox statue, in Tompkins Square Park, is now taking heat on the political front, as well.

On July 30, East Village Councilmember Carlina Rivera wrote to Mitchell Silver, the Parks Department commissioner, indicating that she feels the statue should not be in a public setting like the park.

The police barricades have been reined in a bit but officers posted in an SUV keep up the Cox watch. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“I hope that you will consider speaking with the local community immediately, specifically Black residents of the Lower East Side, to consult with them on the Cox statue’s fate,” Rivera told Silver.

Although the congressmember improved working conditions for postal workers, earning him his nickname, he was definitely not a friend to black people. In fact, in the years right before the end of the Civil War, he forcefully lobbied against emancipation.

Police have moved away the barricades that were blocking off the chess tables next to the Cox statue, allowing a group of men to play cards on a recent afternoon. (The Village Sun)

Amid a season of statue reckoning, his Tompkins monument apparently was recently targeted for toppling.

As The Village Sun reported last month, on Sat., July 25, a large detail of police showed up in the park to guard the Cox statue from an apparent credible threat. The monument had been tagged with anti-police graffiti and an anarchy symbol just the week before. Police also cordoned off the statue and the nearby chess tables using metal barriers.

People can now use the chess tables once again for laptops and lunching. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Four days after The Village Sun article, Rivera wrote Mitchell expressing her concern about the statue.

Cops have since moved away the barriers to allow people to sit at the chess tables once again. But an idling police SUV with officers inside continues to sit on the park path right next to the Cox statue.

The police barriers are gathered around the Cox statue. Before, they had been extended out onto the path and also blocked off the chess tables area. (Photo by The Village Sun)

On the other side of town, also under 24/7 police watch is the Washington Square Arch, whose two statues of slave-owning Founding Father George Washington were splattered with red paint at the end of June.

Rivera’s letter seems clear on the question, as it relates to the Cox statue, in the immortal words of Joe Strummer on the mural across the street, “Should I stay or should I go?”

City Councilmember Carlina Rivera in May speaking out about a rough arrest of a man on Avenue D that was sparked by some local residents’ alleged failure to socially distance. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

“Historians and numerous New Yorkers have highlighted that Cox’s history — beyond his work regarding pro-labor policies at the United States Postal Service — includes very disturbing examples of white supremacy, particularly as it relates to emancipation and Black civic participation in the mid-1800s,” Rivera wrote the Parks commissioner. “Today’s demands for social justice that are being raised across this country must be met with a holistic review of the (mostly) men whom we honor with place names and statues in our public spaces.

Graffiti, including “ACAB” (“All Cops Are Bastards”), “Black Power” and an anarchy symbol, have been cleaned off the Cox monument’s pedestal. But the former congressmember’s racist history can’t be so easily expunged. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“I am sure most New Yorkers would agree that these landmarks should not remain as a public reminder to many of our neighbors that, for much of United States history, they were not considered nor treated as equals to white Americans,” Rivera continued. “As many historians have suggested, such statuary is better situated in non-public settings, such as museums, where they can remain as an educational tool for future generations choosing — operative word — to view and understand our nation’s racist legacy. Encountering the Cox statue while visiting Tompkins Square Park is not a choice.”

In a statement, the Parks Department said, “We recognize the importance of a contemporary reckoning and reevaluation of historical figures. We appreciate the comments shared and Parks will engage in conversation with those who have expressed concern.”

The Parks Department reportedly told PIX 11 that it condemns Cox’s comments on race and slavery.

6 Comments

  1. Gerry valentine Gerry valentine August 23, 2020

    It is part of the historical landscape of the park. Are the chess tables going to be removed? They are part of the landscape too. Let the statue be and add a plaque about his racial views.

    • Harold Appel Harold Appel August 23, 2020

      Slavery is part of the historical landscape of our country. Should we let it be and put a marker next to it?

  2. Patricia Melvin Patricia Melvin August 23, 2020

    Let that hypocrite of a councilwoman be removed rather than Cox’s statue. Especially at this time when the P.O. is under threat, we should not allow her to destroy the statue to the “letter carriers’ friend” who supported paid benefits and a 40-hour work week for U.S. Post Office employees. The postal workers themselves raised $10,000 in 1891 to erect this memorial statue to Cox.

  3. Phil Ochre Phil Ochre August 23, 2020

    I loved hearing that a law has been reinstated whereby you get ten years in prison if you tear down a statue or monument. So, think twice before you pull down statues that offend you or violate your safe zone.

  4. Dr. Fill Dr. Fill August 24, 2020

    The USPS is NOT under attack by Trump. My God you people are so infantile. I am no Trump supporter by any means, but I am also not retarded. PEOPLE: Turn off the TV. You are being brainwashed.

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