73rd annual Columbus Day Parade marches up Fifth Avenue

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Monday, October 9, 2017
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Dave Evans has more on the Columbus Day Parade.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The 73rd annual Columbus Day parade made its way up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan Monday afternoon.

The world's largest celebration of Italian-American culture, the parade included 35,000 marchers and more than 100 groups, including bands, floats and contingents.

But it seems no parade here in New York City is without controversy, and with all the debate recently over statues of Christopher Columbus and Mayor de Blasio appointing a committee to evaluate whether certain statues should be removed, protests were planned.

Activists wanted to interrupt the parade with a demonstration, saying Columbus does not deserve the honor, but no incidents were reported.

Mayor de Blasio was also not invited, but showed up anyway and received a smattering of boos by those who want to keep the statues.

As part of the commemoration of Columbus Day, a wreath laying ceremony was held at Columbus Circle Sunday to recognize Italian-American immigrants.

That ceremony was interrupted briefly by demonstrators speaking out against honoring Columbus.

Two of the three protesters were dressed in fake chains, while one wore a hooded white sheet. They spoke out before being escorted away Sunday. The NYPD said one person was arrested.

Another parade in the Bronx in honor of Columbus dis-invited Mayor Bill De Blasio over what organizers consider is his lack of support for Columbus.

De Blasio appointed a committee to evaluate whether monuments to certain historical figures should be removed, prompting a backlash from fellow Italian-Americans who vowed to defend the Columbus statue, which has stood over Columbus Circle for more than a century.

The city's Italian-Americans say Columbus stands as a symbol of their proud heritage, but others maintain Columbus was a murderer who brutalized native Americans.

"If people do their research and do their homework about this guy, they will understand that this guy doesn't deserve to have a holiday, doesn't deserve to have a statue at Columbus Circle," said one of the protesters.

"Christopher Columbus brought us to this new world and it became many years later the United States of America and gave everyone an opportunity to have a voice, even those who do not agree with us," said Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation.

Leonard Riggio, the founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble, was this year's Columbus Day Parade Grand Marshal.

The parade celebrates the spirit of exploration and courage that inspired Christopher Columbus's 1492 expedition and the important contributions Italian-Americans have made to the United States.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)