Columbus statue in Phoenix vandalized on holiday

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Statue of Columbus vandalized. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Statue of Columbus vandalized. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, is recognized as a federal holiday and a state holiday in Arizona.

The City of Phoenix, however, does not recognize Columbus Day as a holiday, but Mayor Greg Stanton did proclaim Oct 9, 2017, Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Controversy over honoring the Italian explorer for his arrival to the Americas in 1492 stems from his treatment of Native American people after he arrived.

To that point, statues of Columbus, all over the country have been vandalized, and Phoenix is no exception.

A bronze statue of Columbus stands outside of the Arizona American Italian Club on 12th Street and Northern in Phoenix.

This morning, passersby and club members noticed the statue had been defaced. Someone poured red paint all over the statue.

“Sometime between 9 p.m. last night and 5 a.m. this morning. That's the best I can determine,” said Jay Fuller, president of the AAIC.

This was not the first time the statue has been vandalized. Fuller said less than a year ago, someone painted white swastikas all around the statue and on it.  And nearly every Columbus Day in recent memory, the statue has drawn protestors.

“What's odd is there's no protestors out here today. Normally we'll have four or five with signs. Peaceful demonstrations which I think everyone has a right to. That's why we live in America,” said Fuller.

Fuller said this version of trying to get a message across is just unfortunate.

“If you want to protest, come on out and protest. I’ll bring cold water out to you,” said Fuller. He continued by saying, “It's just a shame. It just creates work for people that have to clean it up. It's just an irresponsible act, as far as I'm concerned.”

Fuller said he understands the controversy surrounding the Italian explorer, but he says Columbus is part of history and Italian Americans are proud that he was given a task to find new routes to the New World and he accomplished that task.

To counter Columbus Day, the Heard Museum hosted events all day Monday for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“It's a day to recognize that we were not discovered by Columbus. We were here before that. We had thriving cultures and civilizations that were in full bloom when he arrived,” said Shaliyah Ben, Director of Public Programming for the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Ben said Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an opportunity to rewrite history and teach kids the whole story behind Columbus and the effects the European settlers had on Native Americans.

“It wasn't always a pretty history and the people who fell on the short end of that stick, so to speak, were our indigenous brothers and sisters. Our ancestors. And that story is not talked about. It's not spoken upon. And we need to start recognizing what that true history is and what Columbus brought along with him,” said Ben.

Both Ben and Fuller agree that vandalism is not the way to express displeasure for the holiday or the symbols that go along with honoring the navigator.

Fuller believes there’s room to celebrate all cultures. Ben would like to see dialogue on the controversy and not criminal acts.

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