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Protesters Join Columbus Day Parade, Call On City To Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day In Its Place

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - On Saturday, city streets were lined with bands, floats, and a crowd in Bloomfield as groups celebrated Pittsburgh's Italian heritage with the Columbus Day Parade.

Like so many things, COVID-19 canceled the parade last year, but while the celebration was underway, protesters called for the parade to be permanently banned.

Plenty of states across the country have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

The list grows even longer when you point out cities, but that is not the case in Pittsburgh.

Although Christopher Columbus himself is loved and hated, parade organizers said the day is mainly about celebrating America's ancestors.

Parading through the streets, celebrating Christopher Columbus, the man many say founded America.

While the festivities are nice, a group of protesters paraded on their own, boycotting the history.

"There is a long and problematic history with celebrating Columbus Day," said Ben Orr, one of the protesters.

Orr, a descendant of indigenous people, said he's done plenty of research when it comes to Columbus.

"To honor Columbus is to honor genocide," he said. "This is a white supremacist holiday."

Some parade-goers said the mix of culture and shared history is what brings everybody together and able to celebrate the day.

"That's what brings the United States together," said Charlene Pavlik. "It's everybody, the background of everyone. Not just Italians, not just Indians."

Orr said when Pittsburgh made calls to remove the Columbus statue in Schenley Park, he believed the city was moving in the right direction.

As several states and cities replace Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day, he thought Pittsburgh would be next but feels they've fallen behind and forgotten history.

"I think we need to definitely adjust the holiday," he said. "I think other states celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day and that's the right move because it gets us talking about the issues."

At the end of the parade, the protesters joined and shared their message.

The parade chairman says there was an understanding as long as everyone was civil, there would be no issue.

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