Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day has gained momentum in some parts of the U.S., with Los Angeles in August becoming the biggest city yet to decide to stop honoring the Italian explorer and instead recognize victims of colonialism.

Austin, Texas, followed suit Thursday. It joined cities including San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, which had previously booted Columbus in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.

But the gesture to recognize indigenous people rather than the man who opened the Americas to European domination also has prompted howls of outrage from some Italian-Americans, who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too.

“We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years,” said Basil Russo, president of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America. “Columbus Day is a day that we’ve chosen to celebrate who we are. And we’re entitled to do that just as they are entitled to celebrate who they are.”

It’s not about taking anything away from Italian-Americans, said Cliff Matias, cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, which hosted a Re-Thinking Columbus Day event Sunday and Monday in New York.

“The conversation is Columbus,” he said. “If they’re going to celebrate Columbus, we need to celebrate the fact that we survived Columbus.”

The debate over Columbus’ historical legacy is an old one, but it became emotionally charged after a similar debate in the South over monuments to Confederate generals flared into deadly violence in August at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Akron, Ohio, a September vote over whether to dump Columbus opened a racial rift on the city council that was so heated conflict mediators were brought in to sooth tensions.

In New York, where 35,000 people marched in Monday’s Columbus Day parade, vandals last month doused the hands of a Christopher Columbus statue in blood-red paint and scrawled the words “hate will not be tolerated.” Activists calling for the city to change the parade’s name also are expected to hold a demonstration.

On Sunday, three demonstrators briefly interrupted a wreath-laying ceremony at the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle. Two dressed in fake chains. One wore a hooded white sheet. Police said one person was arrested.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, appointed a committee to evaluate whether monuments to certain historical figures should be removed, prompting a backlash from fellow Italian-Americans who vowed to defend the Columbus statue, which has stood over Columbus Circle for more than a century. But the mayor still marched in Monday’s parade.

“You can debate the historical figure of Christopher Columbus, but you can’t debate the contribution of Italian-Americans to this country,” de Blasio said at the start of the march. (AP)

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Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Participants ride a float along a rain-soaked Fifth Ave. during the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Women drummers sing as they lead a march during an Indigenous Peoples Day event Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to stop recognizing Columbus Day and instead turned the second Monday in October into a day of recognition of Native American cultures and peoples. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

New York City Major Bill de Blasio (C) takes part in the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Art Cedar, of the Aluet and Blackfeet tribes, raises a fist as he listens to performers drum and sing during an Indigenous Peoples Day event Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A band representing Castellammare del Golfo, Italy, marches along 5th Avenue in New York during the annual Columbus Day Parade on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Women drummers sing as they lead a march during an Indigenous Peoples Day event Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle, Wash. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Curtis Sliwa, right, founder of the Guardian Angels, yells toward New York Mayor Bill de Blasio during the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A Native American woman drums and sings as she marches during an Indigenous Peoples Day event Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle, Wash. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Activists standing along Fifth Ave. display a sign during the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Monday, Oct 9, 2017. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A sign is held aloft during an Indigenous Peoples Day march Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Seattle, Wash. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Revellers perform during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. The festival is held as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day and to promote Native American culture and history. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A member of an orchestra marches on Fifth Avenue during the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. More than one million people are expected to take part in the celebrations. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Jordan Smith of the Mohawk Nation Bear Clan performs with the Longhouse Singers and Dancers representing the Oneida Nation at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pa., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

People march on Fifth Avenue during the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Revellers perform during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. The festival is held as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day and to promote Native American culture and history. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Cadets take part in the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Revellers perform a dance during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A police officer (R) looks as people with Italian flags march Fifth Avenue during the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

The Longhouse Singers and Dancers representing the Oneida Nation perform at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pa., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

NYPD marching band takes part in the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Aaron Miller stands by to preform with the Longhouse Singers and Dancers representing the Oneida Nation at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pa., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

People march Fifth Avenue during the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A reveller performs during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

Mari Caraballo, with Golden Slippers Brigade, center, waves her Italian flag as part of the Columbus Day parade on Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo: Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A reveller performs during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center right, joins others on 5th Ave. during the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Monday, Oct 9, 2017. (Photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

People march on Fifth Avenue during the 73rd Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York, Oct. 9, 2017, celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492. (Photo: Alba Vigaray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples Day

A reveller gets ready to dance during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

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