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Columbus Day Festivities in Little Italy are Joined By Protesters

As many Ohioans celebrated Columbus Day on Monday, protesters took to the streets in Cleveland. Members of the American Indian Movement are calling for the Italian explorer’s name to be taken off the federal holiday.

Protesters made themselves heard at the 65th annual Columbus Day celebration in Cleveland’s Little Italy.

Philip Yenyo leads the American Indian Movement of Ohio. He’s called for sports teams like the Cleveland Indians to drop mascots depicting caricatures of Native Americans. Yenyo says he has nothing against Italians celebrating their heritage.

“We’re glad that they take pride in their heritage. We take pride in our heritage, too," Yenyo said. "But they need to be reminded that if it wasn’t for their countryman coming here and committing the atrocities he did, they wouldn’t be here.”

As protesters chanted and handed out pamphlets, Yenyo asked spectators to celebrate figures like Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei instead of Christopher Columbus.

"To celebrate a man that committed mass genocide and slavery is like the German-American population celebrating Hitler, and they don't do that during Oktoberfest," Yenyo said.

Cleveland has one of the largest Italian-American populations in the country—more than half a million. Oberlin is the first and only city in Ohio to switch the holiday’s name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.