PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Art Commission has voted to remove the Christopher Columbus monument in Schenley Park.
— PAUL D. MARTINO (@PMARTKDKA) September 23, 2020
It follows emotional debates between members of the Italian American community and Native Americans.
The statue has stood in Oakland for more than 60 years, a symbol of pride for many Italian Americans. But Columbus’ days in the park could be numbered.
Italian immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh and helped build our community raised the money to build the monument and honor their contributions to our community.
“The removal of the statue from Schenley Park is tantamount to erasing the history of Italian Americans and their contributions to the city of Pittsburgh,” said Basil Russo with Italian Sons and Daughters of America.
But for Native Americans, the statue represents slavery and genocide.
“They might as well have a statue of Hitler,” said Miguel Sague.
Sague and the Three Rivers American Indian Center is one of many calling for the statue to go, saying Columbus committed genocide.
“On the backs of people that he could control and kill if he wanted to, and these were my ancestors,” said Sague.
So following weeks of discussion, the city’s Art Commission met via Zoom Wednesday and voted unanimously to remove the entire monument.
But this isn’t the final word on Columbus.
A lawyer for the Italian Sons and Daughters of America says removing the statue violates a city ordinance that says the statue should be maintained in perpetuity in Schenley Park. They plan to sue.
“Our position is right and just. We will do whatever is necessary to protect our heritage, and to protect the statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park,” said Russo.
The Art Commission’s vote is just a recommendation, and Mayor Bill Peduto has the final say.
In statement late Wednesday, Peduto says he’ll review the recommendation and issue a response soon.