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Columbus Day And Indigenous People's Day Events Bring Sharply Differing Perspectives To Downtown Syracuse

Columbus Day 2021
John Smith
The Columbus Monument serves as a backdrop as Nick Pirro, Board Member of Columbus Monument Corporation, speaks to reporters.

Columbus Day festivities went on as planned yesterday morning in Syracuse’s Columbus Circle, despite plans to remove the monument. In fact, the debate about the future of the site seems to have only deepened the resolve of the Italian American community. Former Onondaga County Executive Nick Pirro’s father was on the fundraising committee that established the monument in the early 1930’s.

"I have faith that good will prevail, that someone's political decision will not overtake the hard work that our parents, our grandparents, and everyone put into making this beautiful monument and fountain, and that it will be here for a long time to come."

The Walsh administration wants the monument to be moved and replaced with a Heritage Park celebrating people of all backgrounds. It’s currently tied up in court. President of the Columbus Monument Corporation Mark Nicotra says the day and monument are about more than just Columbus. It’s about Italian heritage.

"Columbus was a beacon for our ancestors to get to this country. He paved the way for them to get here, and that's why they're honoring Columbus, and why it means so much to us. Without all that, I would not be here today."

Father Joseph Clemente led the group in prayer ahead of the wreath laying.

"Loving Father: Hear the prayers of the proud people gathered on this square to celebrate our great ancestor, one of courage, tenacity, and faith."

Later in the evening, proponents of removing the monument held a “Replace Columbus” observance at the same location. Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage, or WISH, and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation and their supporters led a program aimed at correcting what they call Columbus’ false hero image. Speakers gave respect to Indigenous People, whose lives were forever changed by genocidal violence and colonialism. After the event, films celebrating Indigenous People’s Day were presented in Everson Plaza.

Columbus Day 2021
John Smith
Father Joseph Clemente, Pastor of St. Marianne Cope Parish, leads the group in prayer before the wreath laying.