New London city council votes to celebrate Italian Heritage Day, no longer recognizing Columbus Day

New London

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Monday night, New London City Council unanimously passed a resolution to replace Columbus Day in the city with Italian Heritage Day.

This comes only months after the Christopher Columbus statue that stood for more than 90 years in the city was removed amidst protests and vandalism that occurred during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Since then, the words ‘No Justice No Peace’ were spray-painted where the statue once stood in what is called Columbus Square in New London. 

“I’m proud to stand here in this moment and to make sure that I can bridge the gaps between this divide which is in our community and that we’re seeing nationwide,” said New London City Councilor (D) Curtis Goodwin.

He wrote the resolution that changed Columbus Day in the city to Italian Heritage Day. It will be celebrated on the second Monday in October. 

He says it honors the Italian immigrants who gave the statue to the city in 1928.

“Their intent was to celebrate and honor the sacrifices and contributions of Italian people and their heritage, and in doing so the man who was behind us and is now gone, he was the source of controversy and so much divide,” said Goodwin.

He hopes this day will continue to do so while removing the explorer who is now linked to the enslavement and killing of indigenous peoples.

“History as we know it, unfortunately, is told by the winners, and often times that’s not an accurate account of history,” said Goodwin. “So I decided, if we move him we now [can] have an honest and direct conversation which centers around healing, and to that end why not honor Italian heritage instead of erasing it,” said Goodwin.

“I think it’s an appropriate compromise to perhaps redirect the attention from this one particular historical figure and focus that attention on the Italian immigrants that helped to settle this country and this city,” said New London Mayor (D) Michael Passero. “I think it’s appropriate that we now recognize the Italian community with one of these ceremonies.

Though Monday’s vote passed unanimously, there was still some tension.

Councilmember John Satti spoke for 10 minutes about important figures in Italian-American history. When he exceeded his time, the president pro-tempore tried to move the meeting along and things got ugly.

“We’ve given you the privilege of 10 minutes,” President Pro-Tempore Alma Nartatez explained.

“I would ask you to stop discriminating against me as an Italian American,” Satti responded.

“That is so out of order,” Nartatez said.

There were also two other resolutions being considered Monday night. One would declare October as Italian Heritage Month and the other would declare November as Native American Heritage Month here in the city. Goodwin also authored both of those. They were both approved unanimously.

The Columbus statue remains in storage until perhaps future generations decide what will happen with it next. 

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