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Bridgeport's Italian community calls for return of controversial Columbus statue

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The Council of Italian American Societies of Greater Bridgeport is calling for the return of Seaside Park’s Christopher Columbus statue.

In July 2020, the statue of the Italian explorer was quietly removed from the park amid national controversy over Columbus's role in history and celebration in modern society.

“The disrespect that has been shown to us is just unbelievable,” said former state Representative Christopher Caruso told News 12 Connecticut two weeks after the statue was removed.

Recent historical studies have found that during Columbus's many travels to the Americas, he was responsible for the death of millions of Native Americans.

Since 2019, 15 states have started to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 10, rather than Columbus Day, to honor Native Americans instead of celebrating a historical figure responsible for the eradication of many native cultures.

Columbus's legacy is divisive with many viewing him either as an Italian hero or a symbol for colonialism and racism. In 1950, the Italian-American community gifted the bronze statue to the city of Bridgeport, but the city has never owned the statue entirely, according to Caruso.

Caruso, along with other members of Bridgeport's Italian community, argue that Mayor Joe Ganim had no right to remove that statue without contacting the council. During a conference last Tuesday, the city’s park board commission voted to release the statue to the council, while they negotiate with the mayor to put the statue back on public display.

It’s unknown what the council will do with the statue if they receive full custody.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.