WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The Italian-American community in Waterbury is on a mission to save and repair the Christopher Columbus statue that was discovered decapitated in the early morning hours of July 4th.
“The Italian-American community is looking to fund any repairs of anything that needs to be done to keep the statue safe,” said Francine Nido, President of the Waterbury Chapter of UNICO, a national Italian-American community organization.
Nido says it would come at no cost to the city. Mayor Neil O’Leary has not said what he would do if the statue is repaired — would he keep it in front of Waterbury City Hall or move it? A couple of protests have taken place on the steps of city hall recently in which onlookers shouted at protesters who want the statue gone.
There is no official word from police if any protester was involved in the vandalism. A police spokesman responding to texts from News 8 said several detectives are involved in the investigation. Police have confirmed there is a surveillance video of the incident and they do have the head of the statue.
That gives Nido hope that the statue can be restored. “The two pieces can be repaired,” she said.
However, before the statue was vandalized, protesters were calling for its removal from the front lawn of city hall.
“It’s a symbol of hate. It’s a symbol of racism,” said community activist Fahd Syed, who helped to organize last weekend’s protest.
“He did not discover America,” said Athena Wagner, who attended that protest. “We also know he’s responsible for sex trafficking, slave trade.”
Nido says the Italian-American community donated it to the city in the mid-’80s as a thank you gift to Waterbury.
“For the opportunities that the city provided to all immigrants over the past hundred years,” she said.
News 8 asked her to address the negative allegations made against Christopher Columbus that anger protesters.
“We realize what history has taught us,” she said. “And we realize that in 1492, what was accepted is completely different than what is accepted now…And we try to look at more of the spirit he embodies — the adventure, the exploration, the bravery, the courage to travel across to a new continent and to establish communications between a new and an old world.”
Nido also tells News 8 she would be willing to take part in some sort of dialogue with protesters to give each side a chance to listen to each other.
Meantime, Thursday Mayor Neil O’Leary sent a text to News 8 saying he does not know what the future will hold for the statue if it’s repaired. The mayor says no decision will be made until he talks to more stakeholders in the community.
He’ll have a chance to hear from more protesters. They plan to be outside his office window in front of city hall holding a rally Friday.