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25 Jun, 2020 01:22

Citing ‘history of colonialism,’ Yale hometown removes Columbus statue & renames school

Citing ‘history of colonialism,’ Yale hometown removes Columbus statue & renames school

New Haven, Connecticut, has removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from a city park, retitled a school previously named after the Italian explorer, and erased Columbus Day from the calendar, to appease the ‘migrant community.’

The bronze statue dedicated to the famous explorer was dismantled on Wednesday, a week after the city’s Parks Department voted to do so. It had stood in Wooster Square Park since 1955, when it replaced the original monument, dedicated in 1892.

Dozens of people had gathered in the park since early morning, including both the protesters demanding the statue’s removal and local residents determined to stop this from happening. There were reports of scuffles between the two groups.

Mayor Justin Elicker said the decision was spearheaded by New Haven’s Italian-American community, which “did the right thing,” and thanked them for “recognizing the history of colonialism and its negative effects on many cultures.”

“It is disappointing that some at the protest incited fighting. New Haven has a long history of lively dialogue, but violence has no place in our city,” Elicker added.

The statue will remain the property of the city, but it will be moved to the Knights of Columbus Museum, run by the Catholic charity of the same name.

The New Haven monument to Columbus was originally erected to mark the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s famous voyage across the Atlantic towards what would later be known as the Americas. Many similar statues were put up by Italian immigrants seeking recognition in the US.

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Columbus’ crew arrived in the New World on October 12, 1492 after a three-month journey on Spanish ships. In the US and elsewhere, the day is marked each year with a holiday named after the explorer, with public celebrations of his landing in the Americas recorded as far back as the late 1700s. Earlier this week, however, the New Haven School Board moved to replace the centuries-old holiday with “Indigenous Peoples Day” on the school calendar, also striking Columbus’ name from an academy in the Fair Haven neighborhood.

“A celebration of this problematic figure on a public school building attended daily by hundreds of young children betrays our most basic responsibility to set a good example and provide positive role models,” one community member wrote, a comment read aloud by a school board member during a meeting on Monday.

Though Italian immigrants have played a significant role in memorializing the explorer – organizing the country’s first Columbus Day parade in San Francisco in 1868 – New Haven activists argue that any tribute to Columbus is an “insult” to migrants and Native Americans, some labeling him a killer.”

Another (satirical) renaming initiative also kicked off in New Haven last week, with conservative pundit Jesse Kelly demanding that Yale University – named after Elihu Yale, “an actual slave trader,” in Kelly’s words – choose a new moniker, “otherwise they hate black people.” The parody proposal, which sent #CancelYale trending on Twitter, triggered similar mock demands to rename Harvard and other institutions linked to ‘problematic’ historical figures and events.

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