Los Angeles has become the largest city nationwide to remove Columbus Day as an official city holiday, replacing it with a day to commemorate indigenous people.
The nearly unanimous decision Wednesday by the city council added Los Angeles to a growing list of U.S. cities to adopt similar measures, eliminating a holiday that many Native American activist groups and others see as offensive. The second Monday of October, a paid holiday for Los Angeles employees, will now be called “Indigenous Peoples Day.”
“The historical record is unambiguous in documenting the horrors Christopher Columbus and his men exacted on the native peoples he encountered,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation, said in a statement before the 14-1 vote.
The move to rename the holiday faced fierce opposition from Italian Americans who see Christopher Columbus and his arrival in the Americas as an important part of their culture. Some opponents of the decision encouraged designating a day to honor indigenous and aboriginal peoples, while still observing Columbus Day.
But for Native American groups, removing the reference to Columbus altogether was a symbolic and historically necessary change. Chrissie Castro of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission had urged the council to “dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Activists across the country have made calls to take down statues of Columbus, such as New York City’s famous Columbus Circle statue. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, faced backlash from the city’s large Italian American population for refusing to rule out removing the statue — he has ordered a 90-day review of “symbols of hate” on city property.
Meanwhile, a statue of Columbus in Yonkers, N.Y., was found beheaded this week.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the first Columbus Day as Oct. 12, 1937, after an intense campaign led by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization.
Full story at The Washington Post.