Columbus Day

Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day: Changes This Year in Chicago

Columbus Day is expected to be much different this year in Chicago - with the presence of a nationwide movement to replace the federally-recognized holiday altogether and the absence of the city's annual parade.

Still, members of Chicago's Italian American community have planned a rally at Arrigo Park in Little Italy, a celebration they say is more important than ever this year.

"If anything, to be honest with you, this would probably be a much larger celebration and much larger parade because of that," said Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. "Our Italian American community is stronger than ever."

In July, following violent protests, statues of Christopher Columbus in Grant Park and Arrigo Park were taken down, at the direction of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"This step is about an effort to protect public safety and to preserve a safe space for an inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city's symbols," the mayor said at the time.

Lightfoot said the move was "temporarily," but hasn't said when the statues are expected to be returned.

For several months, protesters across the county have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, saying that the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

Regarding the parade, organizers said the city wouldn't issue a permit for such an event during the pandemic.

"We had kind of a hint that this was going to happen, because when they canceled the marathon, which is the day before the parade historically, we figured we were going to be next," said Louis Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation.

Earlier this year, Chicago Public Schools announced that Columbus Day would be replaced with Indigenous Peoples' Day on the school calendar.

Additionally, many have called for Columbus Day to be replaced by Indigenous Peoples' Day nationally.

"Indigenous people deserve their own day," said Ron Onesti, vice president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. "We want them to have their own holiday. We will march with them... We just don't believe that should be at the cost or the expense of our federal holiday."

Monday's rally will begin at 10 a.m. in Arrigo Park and is expected to be followed by a car parade in the neighborhood.

In a statement, the city of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications said while no events have been organized by the city, OEMC "will be monitoring weather conditions and any event or activity that should arise in relation to the holiday weekend."

"As always, OEMC and the Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH) encourage everyone to wear masks and for all activity organized by residents to follow the City's  COVID-19 precautions and rules," the statement added.

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