On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.
The council capitulated to critics who accused Columbus of genocide, saying the second Monday in October will now be a day to commemorate “indigenous, aboriginal and native people.”
The council ignored Italian-Americans, who proposed keeping Columbus Day but offering a different day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. Ann Potenza, president of Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California, protested to a room filled with Native Americans, “On behalf of the Italian community, we want to celebrate with you. We just don’t want it to be at the expense of Columbus Day.”
But Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, told the council city lawmakers needed to “dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples. To make us celebrate on any other day would be a further injustice." She also said the explorer’s connection to brutality and slavery makes him no longer worthy of celebration.
The motion to replace Columbus Day passed 14-1; only Councilman Joe Buscaino opposed it. He had offered an amending motion to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on Aug. 9 and another new holiday celebrating the diverse cultures of Los Angeles on the second Monday of October.
The motion to replace Columbus Day had originally been offered by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in November 2015, although he had not suggested replacing it with another holiday. He urged the council to pass the motion on Wednesday, saying, “The historical record is unambiguous in terms of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus himself, and his men, enacted on Latino native peoples.”
The council tried to placate the Italian-American community by approving a recommendation from the Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee that Oct. 12 be recognized as Italian American Heritage Day in the city. It would not be a paid holiday for city employees.
Seattle, Minneapolis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and Portland, along with five states, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.
O’Farrell insisted, “We are not creating a racial conflict. We are ending one.”