By: KDKA’s Chris Hoffman and Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On Monday, the country is recognizing a federal holiday filled with controversy. It’s Christopher Columbus Day, or as more and more people are calling it now, Indigenous People’s Day.
The statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park remains wrapped in plastic to protect it from vandalism amid an ongoing legal battle, but that didn’t stop someone from splashing it with red paint and scrawling the word “savage” on the outside.
The City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission voted for the statue to be removed because of Columbus’ history of torture. The Italian Sons and Daughters of America have argued against the removal of the statue, saying that the statue represents Italian-American history.
“Yes, it should stay. It’s our heritage. It’s our life. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be here,” said passerby and Florida resident Sherry DeVillers.
Student Tim Reed disagrees: “I personally think it should go just because it’s changing to Indigenous Day and with all that, we’re learning about Columbus. I’m a history major. All the terrible things that he did, it’s pretty much a slap to the face to have a monument like that.”
WATCH: Chris Hoffman Reports
A judge has asked the two sides to come to a compromise. The Italian Sons and Daughters offered for a Native American statue to be placed nearby, and the city said no.
Attorney George Bochetto says Mayor Bill Peduto, who supports the removal, failed to appear at the last hearing in September and doesn’t have the right to move the statue.
“I think every ethnic group gets to decide who they want to cherish as their heroes. I don’t think the Italians tell the Irish who they should and should not cherish. I don’t think the government should be in the position to choose who to venerate as one of our heroes,” said Bochetto.
But Marybeth Kreps said Columbus is no hero and should be removed from his prominence in history. Kreps is glad the statue is covered and hopes it’s removed.
“I think we did a bad thing to the Indians, and I wish we could turn back time,” said Kreps.
The mayor wasn’t available for comment. A spokesperson said he won’t comment on litigation but his position on removing the statue is clear.
Over the weekend, groups protested the annual Columbus Day parade in Bloomfield, calling for an end of celebrating Columbus.
“There is a long and problematic history with celebrating Columbus Day,” said Ben Orr.
On Friday, President Joe Biden issued the first Presidential Proclamation of Indigenous People’s Day.
Activists say efforts to end the formal holiday in Columbus’ name are stalled due to political theater in Washington.
As the court battle lingers here in Pittsburgh, the statue remains standing, covered in plastic.