More than 50 U.S. cities—including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas—celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, in place of the federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer who massacred and enslaved Arawak indigenous people while opening the door to the European colonization of the Americas.
In New York City, protesters rallied at a 115-year-old statue of Christopher Columbus near Central Park Monday, calling for its removal and for the city to make the second Monday of each October Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The protest came as the New York Police Department ringed the statue in metal barricades and said it was providing round-the-clock surveillance of the monument. This is Loaiza Rivera, a student activist at the City University of New York.
Loaiza Rivera: “I’m a CUNY student, and I’ve heard various times my professors say how Christopher Columbus was a hero, how he discovered us, how he should be honored. And in 2017, I can’t believe that that’s still going on. That’s ridiculous. And that’s why this is such a big deal, because it’s not just a statue, it’s not just a day. It’s a message that we’re constantly putting out that we’re OK with this kind of behavior, that we’re OK with Standing Rock, we’re OK with the colonial crisis in Puerto Rico. And we’re not.”