PHILADELFIA – A member of the Philadelphia City Council and Italian American groups sued the mayor’s government in federal court over a decision to rename the city’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday stated that while both groups deserve recognition, Mayor Jim Kenney “should not take action discriminating against Italian Americans to exalt other ethnic groups in its stead,” reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Plaintiffs, including Board Member Mark Squilla, alleged that Kenney’s recent executive order to rename the October holiday fits a pattern of discrimination by the mayor against his Italian-American constituency, which they say should be designated a protected class.
Also cited are attempts to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from south Philadelphia and last year’s removal of a statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo from outside a city service building near City Hall after being the target of protests.
After the Rizzo statue was removed, protesters gathered at the Columbus statue at the Marconi Plaza statue and protesters also arrived. The groups clashed for days before the city covered the statue with a wooden structure and announced plans to seek its removal.
Many Italian Americans have embraced 15th-century explorers – once hailed as American inventors – as cultural heroes, but not all agree. Cities across the US have observed Columbus’ legacy in recent years, accelerated by protests against racial injustice that began the final sprint after George Floyd’s death.
When ordering the vacation name to be changed, Kenney said in a proclamation that Christopher Columbus’ story was “very complicated”, adding that the explorer “enslaved the native population, and punished individuals who failed to fulfill the services it expected through violence and, in some cases, murder.”;
Philadelphia is not the first city to remove the name Columbus from an October vacation to recognize Native Americans – Los Angeles, Denver and Austin, Texas, were among the switching municipalities.
Back in Philadelphia, the plaintiffs also accused discrimination in prioritizing neighborhood designations for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, something the city says is a region and target group with low vaccination rates.
On Tuesday, Kenney called the lawsuit a “useless political tactic” and said it would “waste valuable resources as we try to tackle a devastating pandemic and work to build safer and fairer cities for all residents. . “