NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — This weekend marks three years since the Christopher Columbus statue was taken down in New Haven’s Wooster Square, but the fight to put it back up continues.
A new lawsuit filed last month by the Italian-American Defense League and a Wooster Square resident claims the City of New Haven “unlawfully removed the statue” in 2020.
It was at a time when racial equality protests were everywhere — some of them targeting Columbus statues over the way the explorer mistreated indigenous people.
The eight-page lawsuit claims the statue from 1892 was “the gift intended to signal the contributions Italian-Americans had made to American culture and society.”
“One group isn’t better than another group,” said Matthew Guarnieri, the president of the Italian-American Defense League. “Together, all of our stories make up the story of New Haven.”
According to the documents, “the decision was unlawful in that if proceeded both without notice to the public, an opportunity for public comment before official action was taken, or even a vote.”
“The Italian-American Defense League believes in mutual respect of all people, and we believe in maintaining all statues as markers of our history,” Guarnieri said.
The group also argues the removal impacts the Wooster Square neighborhood, stating, “the city’s decision to remove the statue has an adverse impact on the character of his neighborhood and the value of his home.”
“New Haven is doing great as far as our real estate values, and I would expect Wooster Square is similar phenomenon,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said. “But, I won’t comment about the particular details of the lawsuit.”
The city has already faced two lawsuits by other Italian-American groups.
Elicker said these complaints disrupt the process to move forward.
“It’s time for [the Italian-American Defense League] to move on,” Elicker said. “It wastes city resources, it wastes city money, and it hasn’t worked — twice. So, let’s move beyond this.”
Elicker said the city has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new statue, which will depict a man, woman and two children arriving from Italy.
It’s unclear when the new statue will be installed.