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Columbus is dumping Columbus Day, as movement gains steam. But some are fighting back

This Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, photo from video by KSDK-TV shows the Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis after red paint was used to vandalize the statue. The statue was also vandalized in October 2016.
This Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, photo from video by KSDK-TV shows the Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis after red paint was used to vandalize the statue. The statue was also vandalized in October 2016. Associated Press file photo

While thousands of people are celebrating Columbus Day on Monday, more and more people and cities are refusing to observe the holiday — including Columbus, Ohio.

Instead, the city will use the day to honor veterans, USA Today reported.

“We have a number of veterans who work for the city, and there are so many here in Columbus,” a city spokesperson said, according to the paper. “We thought it was important to honor them with that day off.”

Columbus isn’t alone. More people are instead opting to celebrate the alternative Indigenous Peoples’ Day, according to USA Today.

Columbus Day is meant to celebrate the anniversary of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It is celebrated the second Monday in October. The discovery of the continent opened up the land for colonization by Europeans.

Some say that’s not something worth celebrating.

“Columbus did not ‘discover’ a land that was already inhabited by millions of indigenous peoples and hundreds of indigenous nations. Historical facts prove that the legacy of Christopher Columbus is based on misinformation and outright lie,” Arizona State University assistant professor of American Indian studies Leo Killsback wrote in a university news article. “It has been well documented, even in Columbus’ diaries, that he and his men committed the most inhumane and grotesque atrocities against indigenous men, women and children.”

Cities like Cincinnati, Ohio; Somerville, Mass.; and La Crosse, Wisc., have also opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“The arc of history bends not only toward justice, but toward reason. Columbus Day is a relic of an outdated and oversimplified version of history,” Somerville mayor Joe Curtatone wrote on Facebook.

But some are pushing back against the efforts to dump Columbus — especially Italian-Americans for whom Columbus’ discovery is a point of pride in a long history of anti-Italianism, The New York Times reported.

“I appreciate that for many people, including some Italian-Americans, the celebration of Columbus is viewed as belittling the suffering of indigenous peoples at the hands of Europeans. But for countless people in my community, Columbus, and Columbus Day, represent an opportunity to celebrate our contributions to this country,” John M. Viola, president of the National Italian American Foundation, wrote in a 2017 op-ed for the paper.

“We believe Christopher Columbus represents the values of discovery and risk that are at the heart of the American dream, and that it is our job as the community most closely associated with his legacy to be at the forefront of a sensitive and engaging path forward, toward a solution that considers all sides,” he wrote.

The debate continues to rage on social media as well, with some saying Christopher Columbus should no longer be honored and others saying the holiday should stay.

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