While DC Struggles With Homicides, It Votes To Rename Columbus Day


Helen Lyons Contributor
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In the midst of soaring homicides, the most recent of which was a 15-year-old gunned down in broad daylight near the Nationals Park on Wednesday, the D.C. City Council passed emergency legislation to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“Christopher Columbus enslaved, colonized, mutilated and massacred thousands of Indigenous People in the Americas,” reads the bill, which passed the all-Democrat council almost unanimously (two members abstained from voting). “Columbus Day…only serves to perpetuate hate and oppression, in contrast to the values the District espouses on a daily basis.”

The 15-year-old old killed by the baseball stadium just hours ahead of the viewing party for the Nationals playoff game was the ninth juvenile to be murdered in the city this year. (RELATED: D.C.’s Homicide Rate Soars In The Midst Of National Decline)

“There exists an immediate need to honor Indigenous Peoples’ rich history and culture by acting expeditiously,” the emergency bill that passed through the City Council just a day before D.C.’s 132nd murder states. 

Witnesses reported hearing five shots and police say that the teenager was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds when they arrived on the scene in the afternoon. The number of homicides at present stands six percent higher than it was in the previous year, which saw a 42 percent increase over the year before that. (RELATED: Nationals Security Guard Tells Fans To Quiet Down During Bryce Harper’s Return)

The Columbus Day renaming legislation will go into effect upon a signature from Mayor Muriel Bowser ahead of the upcoming holiday this Monday, but not everyone is celebrating the change.

Council member Jack Evans, currently under a federal investigation concerning allegations of corruption, said at the legislative meeting that he received letters from constituents, mostly of Italian descent, who felt that a hearing should take place before any measure was passed. (RELATED: House Republicans Demand Interviews with WMATA Officials Regarding Ongoing DC Democrat Scandal)

“I want to state for the record that I am an Italian-American,” At-Large Council member David Grosso said in response, “and I am okay with changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

The Lido Civic Club of Washington D.C., which describes itself as a club dedicated to “perpetuating the philanthropic, cultural, social and business philosophies of our Italian ancestors,” wrote a letter, obtained by the Daily Caller, to the council urging them to withhold a vote until a proper debate could be had. 

“In 1891, 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans, the largest single mass lynching in U.S. history,” the letter says. “Italian immigrants were subject to the racial immigration laws of 1924. Hundreds of Italians migrants died in the mines of West Virginia and elsewhere. When Columbus Day was founded in 1937, the federal holiday provided a sense of dignity and pride to Italian immigrants, Italian Americans and Catholics.”

At the council meeting, Grosso said, “Frankly, it’s an accident of history that Columbus is honored… in the first place.”

The letter from the Lido Civic Club cited several examples of contributions to Washington D.C. from Italian Americans, such as Constanino Brumidi who painted the Capitol and the Piccirilli brothers who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial.

They called for a hearing to be held instead of an emergency bill, so that they and others could air their views before the City Council.

“We understand that Columbus was not a perfect man,” the letter goes on to say. “He was flawed, as all men are. However, are we to erase the courageous and good deeds of all men because they are all flawed? Curating only those lessons that won’t offend is the very hubris we could have learned to avoid through such debate.”

The murder of the teenager earlier this week remains unsolved, along with almost 30 percent of all D.C. homicides in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.