ST. LOUIS — After the Christopher Columbus statue in Tower Grove was removed Tuesday, St. Louisans weighed in on the controversial figure and its place in the city.
"The statue was chosen to kind of show that we were white, and people really didn’t think southern Italians were white at the time. We’re talking about 1880s and 1890s," said Rio Vitale, president of Ciao St. Louis. "But at the time it was really a representation of Italian-Americans are white, they shouldn’t be discriminated against, they shouldn’t be lynched. Nobody should be lynched, but that the time that is what was happening.
Vitale said he does not think the statue should be relocated to The Hill, as some are suggesting.
"While I am very saddened and I know Italian Americans are, I am myself certainly understand why it should come down, and I think it should come down," he said.
Vitale said the board members are discussing potential changes to the annual Columbus Day Parade.
"We definitely want to have a parade," Vitale said. "Now, is it going to be the Italian heritage parade? Is it going to be the Columbus Day Parade? That is still yet to be decided. But whatever the parade is called, it’s really to celebrate Italian heritage. That is what we are celebrating here."
Ciao's Facebook post about the removal of the statue drew a variety of responses.
"Needs to be moved to The Hill if it cannot be re-erected at Tower Grove Park!," one person wrote.
"I am conservative and I have never been one to support the removal of statues and American History," another commented. "But I feel different about this particular statue because he didn't really discover America.. So its not real history.. The Indians were already here. Columbus just brought the white people who slaughtered them, and to me that's not a man that deserves a statue. Replace it with something dedicated to the Indians how about. Just my opinion."
Michael Cross, president of St. Louis Bologna Sister Cities and The Italian Community of St Louis also weighed in.
"Americans of Italian descent do have to realize the pain and the suffering that was caused by not only Columbus but by many other conquerors," Cross said. "My suggestion is somebody who is a uniter. An Italian who has united. What about Marconi? We have a street named after Marconi in St. Louis, right? He was from Bologna, which is our sister City, and he invented the radio."