LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved a motion to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day as an official L.A. holiday, siding with critics who said the explorer’s connection to brutality and slavery makes him no longer worthy of celebration.
The motion to replace Columbus Day — originally introduced by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in November 2015 — passed by a 14-1 margin, with only Councilman Joe Buscaino opposed.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, O’Farrell defended the motion to a packed council meeting at City Hall.
“The historical record is unambiguous in terms of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus himself, and his men, enacted on Latino native peoples,” O’Farrell said.
Indigenous People’s Day will replace Columbus Day as one of the 12 paid holidays for city workers. Columbus Day, however, is still a federal holiday.
In approving the switch, the council also rejected a late push by Buscaino through an amending motion to have Indigenous Peoples Day take place on Aug. 9 and a second new holiday celebrating the diverse cultures of Los Angeles replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. Under his motion, both would be paid holidays.
Getting rid of Columbus Day had drawn opposition from many Italian-Americans, such as Buscaino, who view it as a celebration of their national heritage because of Columbus’ Italian lineage.
“What I don’t support, however, is replacing the underlying meaning behind a holiday that’s important; social and cultural importance to the Italian-Americans,” Buscaino said Wednesday.
As part of its vote, the council also approved a recommendation from the Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee that Oct. 12 be recognized as Italian American Heritage Day in the city, although it would not be a paid official holiday for city employees.
In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the Columbus Day state holiday as part of a budget-cutting measure, but L.A. continued to observe the holiday. Observing a holiday like Columbus Day costs the city about $2 million in overtime and more than $9 million in “soft” costs from reduced productivity, according to a Human Relations Commission report.
Columbus Day has long been a divisive holiday due to some historians’ conclusion that he committed acts of brutality on the native people he encountered and was involved in slave trading. The National Christopher Columbus Association, which called for the city to keep Columbus Day, insists he was not responsible for the genocide committed by the Europeans who followed him.
O’Farrell’s original motion called for creating Indigenous People’s Day, but did not specifically direct it to replace Columbus Day. A subsequent report from the Human Relations Commission made the recommendation to replace Columbus Day.
Los Angeles now joins such cities as Seattle, Minneapolis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, along with five states, in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.
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