Italian American group surrounds Columbus statue to protect it from protesters
A group of Italian Americans and supporters of President Donald Trump surrounded a bust of Christopher Columbus in Nutley Friday evening, because they said they were fearful that Black Lives Matter protesters would harm it.
Members of the group told News 12 New Jersey that they were prepared to use physical force to protect the bust – but the sides never physically clashed at the protest on Chestnut Street outside Nutley Municipal Hall.
There were about 75 to 80 BLM protesters – part of a series of protests that have been taking place around the country over the past few weeks to protest police brutality and systemic racism. The group was shouting “Black Lives Matter” while often raising two fingers in a sign of peace.
The counter-protesters were shouting back “All Lives Matter” and told the BLM protesters to go home. They said that they were not happy that statues of Columbus have been taken down around the state in recent days – particularly in Newark and West Orange.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka issued a statement about the removal of the Columbus statue Thursday night.
“The removal of this statue should not be perceived as an insult to the Italian American community. It is a statement against the barbarism, enslavement and oppression that this explorer represents,” Baraka said.
Photos: Protests Held Across New Jersey
Columbus has become a controversial figure in recent years due to his alleged actions against indigenous people.
But the counter-protesters in Nutley say that Columbus represents their heritage.
“Christopher Columbus is our Italian heritage. So, should we take everybody’s heritage away? Or just certain groups of people? How does this work?” asks Ralph Cardninale.
The groups started to disperse around 6:30 p.m. Police say that there was not any violence or any arrests made.