Italian-American group fights to save Columbus statues

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FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP -

An Essex County Italian-American group is fighting to save statues of Christopher Columbus, as controversy surrounding the historical figure grows.

The Fairfield chapter of the Italian-American group UNICO says that they would like to collect all of the unwanted statues. 

UNICO Fairfield Chapter President Amedeo Pineta says that Columbus is an important figure for Italian-Americans. Half of Fairfield’s 7,400 residents are Italian, according to the last census.

“I love it. I have a lot of family members here,” says Fairfield resident Vito Contuzzi. “There's over a hundred of just my family members just living in this town."

Residents say that Italian pride runs deep in Fairfield and they say that Columbus is an important part of that pride.

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But Columbus has become controversial with some opponents questioning his supposed treatment of indigenous peoples when he arrived in the New World. Some have called for the end of Columbus Day and the taking down of his statues. Several Columbus monuments in New Jersey have been recently vandalized.

"This country is about the freedom of all nationalities to come and enjoy their history and their traditions and their heritage and not at the price and cost of another,” Pineta says.

Pineta says that UNICO would like to collect the unwanted statues and put them up at the Fairfield municipal park. UNICO will bring their proposal to the council next Monday.

"We're Italians and the heritage that Columbus brought to the Italians is something we don't want to give up and we won't give up,” says Pineta.

Contuzzi says that he would love to take a few statues if there is an overflow.

"I would love to have two in front of my house,” he say. “While everyone is taking them away, we'll bring them here."

San Francisco voted earlier this week to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

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