Peduto notes his own Italian heritage and that all four of his grandparents were Italian, saying they personally experienced discrimination, yet learned to love their new country. He says he is proud to be Italian-American. He says the statue should return to the Italian-American community.
"After much thought and prayer I believe it is now time for us to return the Columbus statue to the Italian-American community that brought it into existence," says Peduto in a press release. "They can preserve it in a manner than celebrates Italian-American culture, while acknowledging the wreckage that slavery and racism has done to America.”
On Sept. 23, the City Arts Commission unanimously voted to remove the statue from its perch in Schenley Park near the Schenley Bridge. Peduto previously said that his office had the say for removal, and that his decision will then be up for a vote from the Arts Commission. Peduto says he met with advocates for the preservation and removal of the statue, as well as reading the commission's testimony. He called the decision to remove the statue "difficult."
According to a press release, Peduto wants the stature moved so "it can be better displayed in a private location that places Columbus, his memory and his history in different context."
Celebrating Columbus has become an object of controversy in recent years across the country, including Pittsburgh. Last year, protesters handed out flyers that falsely said the city's Columbus Day parade was canceled. Kalen Tierney of anti-racism group What's Up Pittsburgh told KDKA, “By honoring Columbus, we’re not telling the true story of him actually setting in motion the transatlantic slave trade and then a massive genocide of native people.”
My letter to the Pittsburgh Arts Commission regarding the status of the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park. https://t.co/hKfcOjMsxf— bill peduto (@billpeduto) October 9, 2020
Columbus is often celebrated for discovering the United States in 1492, but he never actually set foot on land that would later become the U.S. He did, however, land on an unknown Caribbean Island, and eventually enslaved some of the native people of that island.
Several cities and states have changed Columbus Day, celebrated on Oct. 12, to Indigenous People's Day, as a way to celebrate Native Americans and other indigenous peoples of the Americas. Columbus Day was created in the 1890s as a show of goodwill towards Italian Americans who had been lynched in Louisiana. Since then, it has become a day that some Italian Americans use to celebrate their immigrant history.
Peduto's decision comes months after a June petition calling for the statue's removal released, which has generated over 14,000 signatures. Over the summer, the statue also became the target of vandalism.
No decisions have yet been made on when the statue will be removed, or the private location where it will be stored and displayed. Made by sculptor Frank Vittor, the statue was erected in 1958 and is owned by the City of Pittsburgh. City crews may cover the statue until it can be removed.