Iconic Philadelphia Columbus Statue Still Covered by Wooden Box

By Jennifer Yang
Jennifer Yang
Jennifer Yang
and William Huang
William Huang
William Huang
October 16, 2021 Updated: October 16, 2021

PHILADELPHIA—The Philadelphia parade celebrating Columbus Day ended at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia on Oct. 10. Marconi Plaza’s iconic Christopher Columbus statue was still covered by a wooden box and could not be displayed during the parade and celebration.

In addition to the active participation of different Italian American organizations, marchers include Mummers String Bands, and high school and elementary school marching bands. Hundreds of people watched the parade on-site and celebrated the Italian American heritage together.

Philly Columbus day parade
Columbus Day parade is held in South Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 10, 2021. (William Huang/The Epoch Times)

“We’re honoring Christopher Columbus and the many contributions that Italian Americans have made to America in our history, and this is a great day,” Lou Barletta, a former congressman who is running for Pennsylvania governor, told The Epoch Times.

Gov candidate Lou Barletta
Screenshot of Lou Barletta, former Congressman and Pa. governor candidate, affirms that “that box needs to come down,” in South Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 10, 2021. (Screenshot via NTD)

This year, the official name of the parade has been changed to “Italian­ American Day Parade.” While in many people’s eyes, it’s still the Columbus Day Parade.

Stephen D’Emilio, who grew up in South Philadelphia and is now the Commissioner of Haverford Township, told The Epoch Times: “I’m celebrating Columbus Day. That’s how I look at it. I’m not celebrating Italian Heritage Day. I came back to be here with my family and friends.”

The Wooden Box Covering Philadelphia Columbus Statue

Last summer, the 145-year-old Christopher Columbus statue was encased in a wooden box after it became a focal point for people who protested the death of George Floyd. The City of Philadelphia said the decision to cover the statue was based on public safety concerns and past violence.

But on Oct. 8, Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick ruled that the city of Philadelphia must remove the box around the statue and issued an order allowing contractors to do the work immediately. However, the City of Philadelphia filed an emergency petition in Commonwealth Court and appealed the decision. Consequently, the Commonwealth Court reversed Judge Patrick’s ruling and ordered the boxes covering the statue to remain in place.

Many parade-goers argued that the city of Philadelphia should remove the box around the statue.

“It’s a disgrace that they have covered up the Columbus statue. It is an insult not only to the great Christopher Columbus, but it’s an insult to Italian Americans who are so proud of their heritage. And that box needs to come down,” said Barletta.

Louis Lanni, a candidate for Congress in the fifth district, also agrees that the wood box around the statue needs to come down: “it’s time to understand that we are one people of many different cultures. And among them are Italian people who appreciate the heritage and culture that Christopher Columbus brought to the American experience.”

The box could remain in place until appeals are heard. This case could go all the way up to the Supreme Court. As an Italian American, the Philadelphia city councilmember Mark Squilla feels a little frustrated because “it takes away from everything we’re talking about, the contributions of Italians and what they’re doing.”

City Councilman Mark Squilla
Screenshot of Philadelphia city councilman Mark Squilla, who sued Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration in federal court after the decision of renaming Columbus Day earlier this year, talks with the NTD reporter just before the Columbus Day parade in South Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 10, 2021. (Screenshot via NTD)

George Bochetto, a nationally acclaimed trial attorney in Philadelphia, represents the appeal. He prefers to wait a few days to see the outcome of the appeal, “the box is going to stay for the time being. But we’re eventually going to get the box removed.”

History Can’t Be Changed: Columbus Day vs. Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Philadelphia city officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 11, effectively erasing Columbus Day. The actions were considered part of Mayor Jim Kenney’s response to the 2020 protests after the death of George Floyd. The Mayor’s order triggered a federal lawsuit seeking to reverse it and maintain Columbus Day as an officially recognized holiday. The city’s request to dismiss the federal case is still pending.

On Oct. 8, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. president to issue an official proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. So far, there are 130 cities across the country that have ditched Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the list grows each year.

Many of the parade-goers opposed Philadelphia’s decision to rename Columbus Day.

“That’s the day that we, again, celebrate the contributions of Christopher Columbus and discovering America. And that name will never change in my eyes and many other millions of Americans,” said Barletta, who thinks the renaming of Columbus Day is an insult. “Columbus Day is for all of Italian Americans and should be for all Americans.”

“It won’t change. They can’t change history; they can’t rewrite history. And I can tell you these Italian Americans will not allow it to happen,” Barletta added.

Squilla and dozens of Italian American groups sued Kenney’s administration in federal court after his order to rename Columbus Day earlier this year: “We’re going through this controversy. What we want to do is to continue to celebrate Italian Americans’ contributions and make sure that people know that we will be proud of who we are, proud of our heritage, and proud of where we came from.”

Bochetto doesn’t think celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be at the expense of Columbus Day, “of course, our position is we’re happy to have an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We want people to celebrate their ethnicity but don’t take ours away in the process. Let’s all have our holidays.”

Part of Cancel Culture Across the Country

Last year Philadelphia took down the statute of law-and-order Mayor Frank Rizzo, the first and only Italian-American to hold the city’s highest office.

From statues to monuments, symbols of the past are being torn down and renamed across the country. Some say this is righting the wrongs committed in the past, but others say it’s going too far.

Commenting on the covering up of the Columbus statue and renaming the holiday, Barletta said: “There’s no question they want to rewrite history; they want to change history. They want to keep the history that they like and then somehow try to erase the other history. It doesn’t work like that.”

He said he is glad that people are getting more aware of what is going on: “Eventually, people are going to see through what’s happening, and I’m glad that not only Italian Americans, but others should also rise up because their history can be wiped out as well.”

“It’s part of the cancel culture,” Bochetto said. “Not everything that happened in the past was so pleasant or wonderful, but we’re supposed to learn from it. And this is how we become a better society with a better outlook on life. We don’t just forget about it. We learn from it.”

Pharmacist Vincent Dibacco participated in the day’s celebration. He said: “If you oppose something that the minority wants, you’re no good, you’re nefarious, you’re wicked, but that’s not the way it is.”

He called on people to respect each other’s traditions and live in harmony: “This is a melting pot. Everyone’s going to have different opinions. We’re a little bit too sensitive. With things going on today, [we need] to be a little more tolerant of other people.”

Diane Pelosi, another parade participant, who works in a school said: “It’s our American history, and they’re trying to take it out of our schools. You can never wipe out history. And this is our Italian heritage. “