Columbus Day vandalism promoted by anarchist group

October 10, 2017 GMT

Statues of Christopher Columbus were vandalized in Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and Middletown amid an ongoing national debate about Columbus’ impact on indigenous peoples in the Americas.

On the eve of the holiday honoring the Italian explorer, blood-red paint was thrown across statues in Bridgeport, Middletown and New Haven, while Norwalk’s statue had “FAKE NEWS” emblazoned on its base.

In Bridgeport, where a larger-than-life Columbus stands tall in the Seaside Park looking south toward the sea, the red paint was accompanied by the words “Kill the Colonizer.”

“This is not graffiti,” said Marylin Osoria, who was passing by, and considers herself no fan of Columbus. “This is pure defacement.”

The controversy surrounding Columbus has, so far, kept its distance from Stamford. As of Monday afternoon, the statue of the controversial figure in Columbus Park — the only monument to a historic individual in the city —was free from vandalism.


Stamford Patrol Capt. Susan Bretthauer said she began increasing patrols of the park and statue on Thursday. Bretthauer said she received a notice from UNICO National, the group that celebrates Italian-American contributions to the nation, about two weeks ago warming the statutes might become targets.

Bretthauer said that she even told her patrol officers when driving by the park to take a glance at the statue.

“Just to pay attention and see if there was anyone hanging around that is up to no good,” Bretthauer said.

Police departments around the state and country have been working together after learning that an anarchist group was advocating widespread vandalism against monuments to the explorer, Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said.

“We received information that the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement was going to vandalize our statue at Seaside Park and when officers checked it this morning they found red paint had been poured on it,” Perez said.

The organization, part of the anarchist movement known as “Antifa” is intent on reigniting this summer’s bruising political debate. They put out a call on social media with the hashtag #destroycolonialism.

In August, while cities in the South roiled over the take down of Confederate monuments, statues of Christopher Columbus were under fire in the North. One Columbus statue was decapitated with a baseball bat in Yonkers and another was smashed with a sledgehammer by people holding signs reading “Racism: Tear it down.”

In Norwalk, the Christopher Columbus monument at Heritage Wall, had “FAKE NEWS” neatly stenciled in white paint on its base.

Marie Iannazzi, president of the Norwalk chapter of The Sons of Italy, said she was saddened by the action.


“If you go into all of these heroes, everyone had a black mark, but the statue honors them for the accomplishments, not for everything in the past,” Iannazzi said. “Otherwise, I don’t think we’d have any statues. We’re all people, we’re all flawed.”

And while the annual Columbus Day parade in Stamford was replaced with the Italian Street Festival on Sunday, the event change wasn’t meant to erase Columbus’s legacy, but to celebrate Italian culture, according to Alfred Fusco, festival chairman and president of the Stamford chapter of UNICO.

“It’s important to celebrate him (Columbus) as the first Italian immigrant who started the migration process to America from countries all over the world,” Fusco said. “It’s not so much about the man, it’s about the accomplishment.”

According to a 2015 report by The Order of Sons of Italy in America, more than 10 percent of Stamford residents identify themselves as Italian. The report ranked Stamford among the top-50 cities in the nation for the highest Italian populations.

Fusco doesn’t believe that the national debate surrounding Columbus is fair and that he should still be held in high regard among Italian-Americans. He’s aware of the controversy surrounding him, but believes a Columbus Day and an Indigenous People’s Day can co-exist without discrediting Columbus’s accomplishments.

“It’s not fair to say that ‘people were here before,’” he said. “Discovery is finding something, examining it and inviting others to explore it for themselves. No one else in the rest of the world knew about it.”

Fusco was appalled to learn that Columbus statues were vandalized across the state.

“I’m not sure what (vandalizing statues) accomplishes,” he said. “We can’t have a conversation about this if people don’t listen to one another and just deface things.”

Staff writers Cedar Attanasio, John Nickerson, R. A. Schuetz and Daniel Tepfer contributed to this report