The box surrounding Philadelphia's controversial statue of Christopher Columbus has been painted red, white, and green after the Italian flag ahead of Indigenous Peoples' Day, formerly known as Columbus Day, in the city.
"They did it for us — the Italians. It made us feel a little bit better," local Thomas DeFino told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's to honor our heritage. They had to pull some strings to paint it."
Attorney George Bochetto said he was hoping the box would be removed "before Columbus Day, and the Columbus Day Parade, so that we could unveil the box and have a big ceremony there, as part of the Columbus Day festivities."
Columbus, who is still celebrated as an explorer by many Italian-Americans, has become a controversial figure in the last few decades as historians reevaluate his legacy and the actions of those who served under him.
According to Philadelphia Magazine, under Columbus' command, native women were sold into sexual slavery to his lieutenants, with Columbus himself writing that "girls … from 9-10 … are … in demand," while others were enslaved and forced to dig for gold.
Mabel Negrete, the executive director of Indigenous Peoples' Day Philly Inc., told the Inquirer that "it's unfortunate" some people continue to celebrate Columbus, and added that painting the box surrounding the statue "undermines intentions to move forward."
Negrete said: "It doesn't seem like the right direction to continue to celebrate and attach themselves to somebody who has a history that is so complicated and problematic. It's unfortunate."
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