Leader of Italian American group calls for permanent removal of city’s Columbus statues: ‘This symbol is dead’
Statutes in Grant and Arrigo parks were removed last month.
The leader of a local Italian American group is calling for the permanent removal of the city’s Christopher Columbus statues that were taken away for safekeeping last month.
“This symbol is dead,” Gabriel Piemonte, founder and president of the Italian American Heritage Society of Chicago, said Monday. “Italian Americans do not want it. It is a disgrace to the city. Make the removal permanent.”
Piemonte stood in front of the empty enclosure at Arrigo Park in the Little Italy neighborhood, where one of the statues had previously stood.
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He said the statues have “awakened their legacy of hatred and violence upon members of the indigenous community and other citizens.” He said some Italian Americans who disapproved of removing the statues have been “harassing and threatening people who disagree with their position.”
“As Italian Americans, we condemn the honoring of Columbus — the murderer, mutilator and enslaver — and wish to convey loud and clear that there are members of our community who do not see this figure as a positive presence in our city,” Piemonte said.
Amy Bizzarri, an Italian American who lives in the city and teaches Italian in Chicago Public Schools, said she’d like to see the statue at Arrigo Park be replaced with something that tells the story of everyday Italian immigrants.
“Those are true brave people, those are the true explorers, not Christopher Columbus,” said Bizzarri, one of Piemonte’s supporters.
Lissa Druss, of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, headquartered in Stone Park, sent an emailed statement Monday: “We maintain the Columbus statues should be returned to their original places.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she ordered the Columbus statues “temporarily” removed in the middle of the night last month after receiving “intelligence that gave us great concern” that something bad was about to happen.
“I wanted to make sure we did it as quickly as possible. We received some information that day [July 23] that raised some very serious public safety concerns. I didn’t want to wait,” the mayor said at the time.
Asked for comment, the mayor’s office reiterated their original reasoning for the temporary removal, and adding that the city “will be announcing a formal framework to assess such works in partnership with our local communities.”