PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A member of the Philadelphia City Council and Italian-American groups are suing the mayor’s administration in federal court over the decision to change the name of the Columbus city holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday argues that while both groups deserve recognition, Mayor Jim Kenney “cannot discriminate against Italian Americans to extol another ethnic group in their place,” reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The plaintiffs, including Councilor Mark Squilla, allege that Kenney’s recent executive order renaming the October vacation is a pattern of discrimination by the mayor against his Italian-American voters, who they say should be singled out as a protected class.
Also cited are efforts to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from south Philadelphia and the removal last year of a statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo from outside the city services building near town hall after it became the target of protests.
After the Rizzo statue was removed, defenders gathered in front of the Columbus statue on the statue in Marconi Plaza and protesters also arrived. The groups clashed for days before the city covered the statue with a wooden structure and announced plans to seek her removal.
Many Italian-Americans have adopted the 15th-century explorer – once hailed as the discoverer of America – as a cultural hero, but not everyone agrees. Cities across the United States have scrutinized Columbus’ legacy in recent years, accelerated by the protests against racial injustice that began the final sprint in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Ordering the name of the holiday to be changed, Kenney said in a proclamation that the story of Christopher Columbus was “deeply complicated,” adding that the explorer “had enslaved indigenous peoples and punished those who failed. to respond to his expected service with violence and, in some cases. , murder. “;
Philadelphia isn’t the first city to remove the Columbus name from the October vacation to recognize Native Americans instead – Los Angeles, Denver and Austin, Texas are among the municipalities making the switch.
Returning to Philadelphia, the plaintiffs also allege discrimination in designating priority neighborhoods for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, which the city said is targeting areas and groups with low vaccination rates.
On Tuesday, Kenney called the lawsuit a “blatantly baseless political ploy” and said it “will waste precious resources at a time when we both try to cope with a devastating pandemic and work to build a bigger city. safer and more equitable for all residents. “