OAKLAND (KDKA) — Just below the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland stands a majestic statue of Christopher Columbus.
And on Columbus Day, it stood defaced with red paint.
“This has been happening over the past twenty years. For some reason, folks don’t care for Christopher Columbus,” Pittsburgh city operations chief Guy Costa told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
Costa, who also chairs the Columbus Day parade, condemned the vandalism, which he sees as aimed at Italian Americans.
“No one appreciates vandalism of any type, especially with a statue that represents and means a lot to a lot of people,” says Costa.
“It’s meant for a museum, not for a park,” says musician Alex Jeffe of Sewickley.
Saying Columbus enslaved indigenous people, Jeffe wants the statue taken down.
“I don’t think we want that statue here anymore,” he said.
And others like University of Pittsburgh junior Ari Peck of Oakland want to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
“Their stories have been erased, and I think they are a more important part of the narrative than someone, who you look at the textbooks, ultimately didn’t really discover anything,” says Peck.
How we remember Columbus apparently depends on who we are.
In 1958, this statue was constructed with donations from Italian Americans here in Pittsburgh and their friends.
And the notion of tearing down this statue or renaming the day something else really is offensive to some.
“We’re going to do what we can to prevent that from happening,” says Costa. “We’re fine with Columbus Day. We like Christopher Columbus for what he has done. We don’t want anyone vandalizing our statue. We don’t want anyone affecting our parade.”
Just as Mayor Peduto considers removing the statue of abolitionist composer Stephen Foster because it also depicts a slave, the argument over Columbus touches a lot of nerves.
“Our organization as well as a lot of Italian Americans would fight to prevent Christopher Columbus from being relocated,” declares Costa.
Finding ways to update history without removing statues and denigrating one culture over another is the challenge, says Costa.
“We’re a multi-cultural, very rich, ethnic community. It’s great to see,” adds Costa.