One and a half years after Mayor Ben Walsh said the city of Syracuse would remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from its plaza, the statue again watched over demonstrators who gathered in the city’s center.The Daily Orange 3/15/22
This time, community members including those from Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation and Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage were there to protest against State Supreme Court Judge Gerard Neri’s recent ruling that Walsh does not have the authority to remove the statue.
Andy Mager, a member of NOON, said to the crowd that people have been protesting the statue’s presence in Syracuse for years.
“Some of you who are a little older like me will remember in the early 1990s, when we were looking at the 500th anniversary of Columbus getting lost on the seas and finding his way to Turtle Island here,” Mager said.
More recently, though, the Resilient Indigenous Action Collective, in addition to NOON and WISH, has been working with Walsh and the city to remove the statue and repurpose what is currently known as Columbus Circle.
Danielle Smith of RIAC and the Onondaga Nation said that the process has been frustrating and tiring. Smith has had these tough, uncomfortable conversations because the only time change happens is when people talk to one another, she said. Still, even when she shows up, the Columbus statue remains.
“It just gets prolonged and prolonged,” Smith said about its removal.
Mager said that the reason for this slow change is partially due to the Italian Americans who are still pushing to keep the statue in the city’s plaza.
Many Italian Americans, however, denounce the statue’s presence. Natalie LoRusso, who is Italian American and a member of WISH, said the organization doesn’t want Columbus to represent the collective Italian experience.
She added that the monument should no longer be a symbol of pride for Italian Americans.
“We all respect the legacy of our ancestors. We are obligated to honor historical truths, not myths or made up scenarios,” LoRusso said.
Smith said that she wants the full story to be told — the story of the genocide Columbus created and the harm he inflicted upon others. She said that she gets that Italian Americans in the early 1900s, when this statue was created, wanted to honor their own history. Because they didn’t really know at the time the harm he caused to Indigenous peoples and others, she said that she understands.
But now, in 2022, Smith said the statue has no place in the city’s center.
“There’s no excuse now,” she said. “You know better, now do better.”