About 200 people plead for removal of Christopher Columbus statue from Syracuse


A crowd of around 200 gathered at Columbus Circle in Syracuse to hear speakers advocate for the removal of the colonizer’s statue on Indigenous Peoples Day.

On October 8, President Biden officially recognized this Monday as Indigenous Peoples Day in addition to Columbus Day.

Participants in the protest carried signs bearing messages such as “Celebrate Diversity, Replace Columbus” and “Restore the Rights of Onondaga”.

Andy Mager, a local indigenous rights activist, gave land recognition for the protest, recognizing the area as property of the Onondaga Nation, before inviting speakers to take the stage recalling why people were there.

“The time has come, the time has long passed, for the statue of Columbus to fall,” he said.


Cecelia Elm, a member of the Onondaga Nation, said she left her ancestral home as a teenager to live in St. Paul, Minnesota. In her history class, her teacher claimed, wrongly, that the indigenous Iroquois people had voluntarily ceded their lands and that they no longer existed. She then confronted the professor.

Elm said she takes pride in speaking out and telling people who she is because everyone should know that her people still exist.

“Once the students leave the classroom, the majority remember it – they remember meeting people who proved that the textbooks were wrong, who were ready to represent their people and the truth” , she said. “Everything that happens with us is buried, and it can’t be anymore. “

Danielle Smith, another member of the Onondaga Nation, said it is important to make the voices of Indigenous peoples heard, especially on Indigenous Peoples Day. Smith referred to the actions of local politicians, including County Executive Ryan McMahon and Mayor Ben Walsh.

Walsh announcement in 2020 that he planned to remove the statue and move it to a private location, with the monument and fountain remaining a memorial to Italian Americans. McMahon has recommended against the removal of the statue in favor of other options, such as adding statues of revered figures from the history of Onondaga nearby.

In May, the Columbus Monument Corporation filed a trial against the city, claiming that Walsh had no legal authority to move the statue. The Onondaga Nation submitted an amicus brief, which is a petition to involve a party that was not initially involved in a lawsuit, according to a sheet that protest organizers distributed.


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Smith said there was no excuse to support Columbus these days.

“Today we know. We know, so we have to do better, ”she said. “I want my daughter to know that indigenous people matter and that we are still here.

Smith also recognized the Crown ceremony hosted by the Columbus Monument Corporation earlier Monday, which argued that the statue remains in place as it honors Italian-American history.

During the protest that supported the removal of the statue, three Italian-American organizers from the Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage collective gave their point of view after the performance of Colleen Kattau, a local singer.

“I’m sure my grandfather contributed to this statue (when it was built),” said MaryAnn Zeppetello, 91-year-old WISH member. “But I learned differently. The statue must fall.

A counter-protester stood nearby, holding a sign that read “Let Columbus stay to remind us.” Other participants moved quickly to mask the sign with their own.

At the end of the event, the organizers announced a minute of silence to remember and honor all those affected by settler violence, as well as those who warmly welcomed Columbus and his men only for their people to be confronted with. brutality.

Some participants donned white gloves colored with red paint to indicate that Columbus had blood on his hands.

Participants stood in a row in front of the statue, some holding their gloved hands high, others proudly waving signs above their heads.

Behind them stood the statue of Columbus, illuminated in red.


Contact Richard: [email protected] | @ richardperrins2

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