A silent procession of more than 30 students marched around the campus’s East Quad on Thursday before coming to a halt in front of the campus library.
What followed was a fervent critique of Christopher Columbus, and the holiday that is dedicated to him.
The march was attended by members of several campus student groups, such as the Brooklyn College Puerto Rican Alliance (PRA)and the Black and Latino Male Initiative.
Opening remarks listed what they call the many atrocities the 15th century explorer committed, including the enslavement and genocide of indigenous people. In a poem, Vice President of PRA, Carlos Cabeza called Columbus a “weak-ass f—boy”.
Columbus and his legacy have both long been contentious historical topics. Since the violent protests that occurred in Charlottesville this past summer, his place in American society has come under even more scrutiny.
In response to Charlottesville, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in August that a new city panel would be created to determine what could be done about “symbols of hate” such as the Columbus statue in Columbus Square. The panel will recommend guidelines about what should be done about the monuments.
Isaiah Rivera, president of PRA , said that the controversial statue should “absolutely” be removed.
“That statue does not belong on American soil,” said Rivera. “America prides itself on its Christian values and yet we still celebrate genociders … like Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee and numerous others who continue to have statues whereas the indigenous people have nobody repping them in any sort of monument and that’s unacceptable.”
“So that statue needs to come down,” Rivera added.
When asked why a holiday dedicated to indigenous people would be better than Columbus Day, Rivera said that the hypothetical holiday would “represent people who deserve to have their voices heard” while Columbus Day is “an attack on American values and on people of color.”
However, Rivera said that there wasn’t another protest planned for Columbus Day.
Ariel Garcia, a member of PRA said Columbus is a part of American history that he wishes “didn’t happen.” Garcia, a Brooklyn College sophomore, also supported the removal of the Columbus statue.
Garcia also said that a holiday dedicated to indigenous people instead of Columbus would be improvement in his view, since at least then “we wouldn’t have a day celebrating a mass murderer.”
“So that would a whole lot better because […] you don’t celebrate what Hitler did,” said Garcia. “They thought what they were doing was right in their own mind, as twisted as that was, but we don’t celebrate Hitler so why should we celebrate Columbus for doing the exact same thing?”