A group including Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott is scheduled to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day outside City Hall Monday, a day after an Italian group held a wreath laying ceremony at the former site of Christopher Columbus statue in Little Italy.
The city has been at the center of a years-long debate about how to best address the history of Columbus, a 15th century Italian explorer largely depicted in textbooks as having discovered the Americas, but whose legacy has come under scrutiny for how he and his crew treated the native people.
Stefanie Mavronis, spokeswoman for Scott, said the council president is scheduled to make an appearance at the event alongside Councilman John Bullock. The National Weather Service is predicting moderate to heavy rain for much of the state into Monday.
Alfredo Massa, one of the lead organizers of the Columbus Day parade and a former chair of the event, said a group of Italians and other organizations like the Knights of Columbus participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the former statue’s site Sunday morning.
It was a far cry from the vibrant celebration that the city had seen for more than 120 years prior, where Italian-Americans would proudly parade down the streets of Baltimore celebrating their heritage.
However, in the wake of a global pandemic requiring that people limit their exposure to others, Massa said special event permits were hard to come by at city offices.
He said after not hearing back for three weeks in September about permits for a parade, the organizing group decided not to move forward, fearing that any attempt to organize a large group could be shut down.
Massa said that while he understands the controversy around Columbus and his crew he believes Columbus still plays an important role in Italian and American history for his role as an early explorer.
“It’s about what people have in their hearts,” he said, adding he was disappointed by the council’s vote to change Monday to Indigenous Peoples' Day, pointing to the statewide American Indian Heritage Day held every November.
“We still love and respect Columbus," he said.
Maryland recognizes Columbus Day as a statewide holiday, so expect many state and local offices to be closed Monday.
Courts will be closed in Baltimore and in all jurisdictions throughout the state.