NEW YORK — A rainy day may have dampened turnout but not the spirits of those who celebrated Italian-American heritage Monday at the Columbus Day Parade in midtown Manhattan.
The marchers and musicians gamely gave it their all as they paraded up Fifth Avenue under gray skies and sometimes-heavy rain. Onlookers waved Italian and American flags, although long stretches of the parade route were empty of spectators.
The annual parade took place as some people across the country are questioning whether Columbus Day should be abolished and replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day.
In New York, the focus has been on a statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood overlooking Columbus Circle. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat and an Italian-American, put together a commission to review statues of controversial figures on city property and to come up with suggestions for how they should be handled. The notion that the Columbus statue could be part of that prompted backlash from other Italian-Americans, who vowed to defend it.
Speaking before the parade, de Blasio said the Columbus Day event was the proud history of Italian-Americans. Asked about Columbus, de Blasio said, "You can debate the historical figure of Christopher Columbus, but you can't debate the contribution of Italian-Americans to this country. That is beyond question."
Parade spectator Rose Bove, 57, is adamantly against changing the name of the day or taking down the statue.
"It's part of history," said Bove, who was born and raised in New York City and recently moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist protest over the removal of a Confederate statue led to violence and the death of a counterprotester. "We grew up with that. I think we should learn from it."