Columbus Day celebrations, protests prompt discord among Chicagoans

The annual Columbus Day parade returns to Chicago this year despite backlash regarding Christopher Columbus' controversial legacy.

The parade was canceled last year due to the pandemic and was replaced with a car parade. 

The parade started at 1 p.m., moving south along State Street from Wacker Drive to Van Buren Street. 

Several street closures were put in place throughout downtown. 


Protestors gathered Monday morning at Pottawattomie Park to address the Cook County Commissioner's refusal to advance a measure replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

They said Columbus was responsilble for the genocide of native people. 

Two statues of Christopher Columbus that stood in Chicago parks were taken down in summer 2020 at the direction of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a week after protesters trying to topple one of the monuments to the Italian explorer clashed with police.

Crews used a large crane to remove the statue in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park from its pedestal. A small crowd cheered and passing cars honked as the statue came down about 3 a.m. The second statue was removed about 5:30 a.m. from Arrigo Park in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

"This statue coming down is because of the effort of Black and Indigenous activists who know the true history of Columbus and what he represents," Stefan Cuevas-Caizaguano, a resident watching the removal, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

A lawsuit filed in July by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans claims the removal of the Columbus monument in Little Italy violates a nearly 50-year-old agreement the group has with the Park District. 

"To have anyone’s ethnic group challenged. Their heros and traditions challenged. There isn't an ethnic group anywhere that would allow their ethnic group to be dictated to them." said Ron Onesti, President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.

Onesti says the agreement says any alterations of the statue or plaza must have the written consent of the Columbus Statue Committee, a precursor to his organization.

"Removing the statue last year is a clear breach of our contract with the Park District," Onesti said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.