LEADER OF ITAL­IAN AMER­I­CAN GROUP CALLS FOR PER­MA­NENT RE­MOVAL OF CITY’S COLUMBUS STAT­UES

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY STE­FANO ES­POS­ITO, STAFF RE­PORTER ses­pos­ito@sun­times.com | @sle­spos­ito

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.

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 its orig­i­nal rea­son­ing for the tem­po­rary re­moval, adding that the city “will be an­nounc­ing a for­mal frame­work to as­sess such works in part­ner­ship with our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.”

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

City crews re­moved the Christo­pher Columbus statue from its pedestal in Grant Park last month.

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