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Otto Warmbier would be a New Yorker today.
The 27-year-old would wake up this morning in Manhattan, a quiet Sunday off from his Wall Street investment job at well-known investment firm Guggenheim Securities, which bought the firm, Millstein Investments, which offered Otto an internship in summer of 2016 and work in line after his graduation from the University of Virginia.
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Otto would perhaps live in the Churchill Apartment building, along with other similar young professionals, on Second Avenue and 40th Street, where a friend took a picture of him waiting on the building’s sidewalk during the summer of 2015.
But the ruthless regime of Kim Jong Un denied the young American a future when he was falsely arrested, jailed for a year and a half and sent home to die, severely brain damaged, unable to speak, see or hear, the result of his torture by his North Korean captors. He was deprived of life support in a Cincinnati hospital five years ago today.
Otto Warmbier was 22 years old.
In death, Otto became an international symbol of human rights and the struggle for the North Korean people and for those who seek human dignity and freedom elsewhere. He was honored at the 2018 State of the Union when his parents Cindy and Fred, sister Greta and brother Austin received an emotional standing ovation from the packed hall of the Chamber in honor of Otto’s memory.
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On Thursday, the United States Senate passed the Eight Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act, sponsored by Senators Rob Portman R-Ohio., Sherrod Brown D-Ohio. and Chris Coons D-Del. which “provides $ 10 million annually over the next five years to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while also encouraging sanctions against those who allow this repressive information environment both inside and outside the North Korea”.
“This legislation will help ensure that his memory survives and that the brutal regime responsible for his wrongful death is held accountable for this and his myriad of other human rights violations,” says Senator Portman.
“The North Korean authorities’ treatment of the North Korean authorities, which resulted in his death, remains a powerful reminder of the brutality of the Kim Jong Un regime,” says Senator Brown. “This legislation reaffirms our commitment to combat North Korea’s human rights violations against its own people and others who have been held captive.”
But another honor is in the works, three blocks from where Otto was pictured waiting outside on that hot Manhattan summer day.
“Otto Warmbier Way” is the proposal to name the street in front of the North Korea Mission to the United Nations on Second Avenue and 44th Street, in front of 820 Second Avenue, where Kim Jong Un’s diplomats have their offices, only one block from the United Nations. The honorary renaming of the street, seen as a moral and provocative message to Kim’s diplomats and a compelling reminder of the regime’s harsh realities to the international community, has impressive bipartisan support, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
“Mayor Adams wholeheartedly condemns North Korea’s human rights abuses and has nothing but sympathy for the loss the Warmbier family suffered when Otto was taken away from them. If City Council chose a path to be renamed in Otto’s name, the mayor would support those efforts, “Mayor’s press secretary Fabien Levy told Fox News.
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“Otto Warmbier Way” is also endorsed by: two former US secretaries of state, Mike Pompeo and John Kerry, the predecessor of Mayor Adams Bill de Blasio, three former US ambassadors to the United Nations, including the former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, two US Senators who are members of the Human Rights Subcommittee, two Korean-American Congressmen, current and past Manhattan District President, District Congressman, Assemblyman of the New York states, as well as human rights activists and others. But it has yet to be voted on by the New York City Council, which is responsible for the honorary renaming of the streets, despite first being proposed in 2019.
In a tweet on Thursday, Otto’s mother Cindy blamed the lack of action, despite heavyweight support, on an elected New York official.
Ms. Warmbier tweeted, “There is a city council member in New York City who has obstructed our efforts to name the road from the North Korean UN mission Otto Warmbier Way. Who can help us with that?”
He was responding to the Washington, DC street name outside the Saudi Arabian embassy “Jamal Khashoggi Way,” in honor of the Washington Post columnist assassinated inside the Istanbul kingdom embassy, presumably by order of the crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman, who denied it.
In her tweet, Ms. Warmbier referred to New York City Council member Keith Powers, a Manhattan Democrat whose borough includes the headquarters of the United Nations North Korea mission. He is the local official who would be responsible for introducing the road renaming bill in the absence of other City Council actions. Although Council member Powers expressed support for Otto’s human rights honor when he was first raised three years ago, his office has told Fox News in the past that the proposal was in the council’s legal department. .
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Street renaming traditionally honors police officers and firefighters who died in the exercise of their duty, as well as army members who offered the ultimate sacrifice, as well as local community activists and other local notables. . But many other names have made it to the street signs … some with no connection to the place … and have included rock and roll, rap and bee-bop bands, foreign dignitaries and major league baseball players and loved restaurant and bar owners, among others.
In 2018, the naming of a Brooklyn street “Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard” after the Haitian revolutionary who led his nation to independence against France sparked controversy. Dessalines is accused of ordering the massacre of up to 10,000 white French residents in 1804.
The current package of 79 names that was approved at the city council meeting on June 16, includes the Beastie Boys (Beastie Boys Square), R&B vocal group The Force MD’s (The Force MD’s Way), as well as signs honoring the local communities such as “Ukrainian Way”, “Little Bangladesh Way” and “Little Thailand Way”.
The official renaming of a Bronx street that was passed last December after former Albanian Prime Minister Fan Noli, “Fan Noli Way”, was briefly delayed earlier this year by a change of council member . Noli was Prime Minister of Albania in 1924.
Last year 199 names were approved, including in honor of the late media billionaire Sumner Redstone, the late Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, “Ibrahim al-Hamdi Way” for the former president of Yemen assassinated in 1977, a Sherpa of the Neapolitan mountains, of the US Navy victims of Pearl Harbor, the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley of the early 1920s, as well as the famous New York Yankee Phil “Scooter” Rizutto.
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“New York City should still use this opportunity to rename the street and make fun of the North Korean dictatorship. Otto’s life may be even more important as a strong sign against totalitarianism,” says Joe Borelli, a New Council member. York City, a Republican from Staten Island, who raised the issue and met with the Warmbiers in 2019, as well as members of the Powers Council.
Former Manhattan borough president and current Democratic city council member Gale Brewer noted that “Manhattan – and all New Yorkers – have always cared about the wider world because so many of us were from elsewhere. So it’s personal to we always seek justice on the global stage … and naming Second Avenue from 43rd to 44th Streets is a little way we can keep Otto’s memory alive. “
Board Member Powers’ office did not respond to a request for comment on Ms. Warmbier’s tweet or the counselor’s current stance on honoring Otto Warmbier’s memory.