The Baltimore City Council is pushing to accelerate the passage of a bill that would rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with lawmakers hoping it takes effect in time for next week’s holiday.
Ultimately, whether or not the city meets this deadline could lie in the hands of Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. If he chooses to veto the legislation or let it become law without his signature, the change would not be official by Oct. 12. Young declined Monday through a spokesman to comment on his intentions.
The council is expected to attempt to speed up the legislative process — invoking a rule that allows a bill to advance from second reading to a final third reading on the same day — so the city is in a position to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year, said Democratic Councilman John T. Bullock, the bill’s sponsor.
“This is a great time to move forward,” he said.
Baltimore council members, like many people across the country, are demanding a reckoning over Columbus’ legacy. The 15th-century Italian explorer was long credited in classrooms as a hero who discovered America, rather than as a colonizer who violently enslaved native people.
Dozens of other cities and states — including Washington, D.C. — have taken the step of renaming the holiday that falls on the second Monday of October. Howard County made the change last month, with leaders there saying it was a step toward recognizing the harm done to Native Americans.
City Council President Brandon Scott, now the Democratic nominee for mayor, unsuccessfully attempted to have the holiday’s name altered in 2016. He’s hopeful that will change Monday, and doesn’t anticipate any procedural issues.
“This is something that should have been done and over with four years ago,” Scott said. “We have to celebrate history as it happened, and not as people imagine it happened.”
Also on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting is legislation that would rename the Columbus Obelisk monument in Herring Run Park as the “Victims of Police Violence Monument.” If it passes, it would also head to the mayor’s desk.
These two pieces of legislation are just the latest revolt over Columbus’ place in history. Earlier this summer, protesters toppled a marble statue of Columbus in Little Italy and dumped it in the Inner Harbor.
The demonstrators who tore down the statue July 4 said they were demanding the removal of all monuments “honoring white supremacists, owners of enslaved people, perpetrators of genocide and colonizers.”
Italian American Organizations United Inc., the group that gave the statue to Baltimore in 1984, fished the pieces back out of the water and has been working to restore it.
An officer of the group, Bill Martin, said he understands some people’s views on Columbus have changed, but that for many Italian immigrants, the explorer was a figure they could look up to when they moved to America.
©2020 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.