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Columbus statues now coming down across Connecticut

Middletown removed its Columbus statue, which had stood the mid-1990s in Harbor Park, over the weekend.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Across the nation, statues of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus are being vandalized and taken down, either by angry members of the public or local officials. And that includes a growing number of Connecticut communities...

Wooster Square, once home to many Italian-Americans, in New Haven, has been home to a Columbus statue since 1892. However, momentum has grown over the past couple of years to remove it.

"People are feeling as though they don’t want it," said Frank Carrano, a Wooster Square Historian. "Columbus is not something that we should be doing at this point in history."

And the conversations started to heat up over the last couple of days.

"The decision has been made to recommend to the city that the statue be removed," Carrano said.

Mayor Justin Elicker (D-New Haven) released a statement Monday praising organizers for pushing for the removal saying the Columbus statue, which he says represents "a time of colonialism and atrocities committed."

"We would like the statue to go somewhere, a place somewhere where it could become the topic of scholarly conversation," said Carrano. The Knights of Columbus Museum, in New Haven, has been discussed as a possibility, as have local colleges and universities.

Middletown removed its Columbus statue, which had stood the mid-1990s in Harbor Park, over the weekend. But, Mayor Ben Florsheim (D-Middletown) said it was going to be coming down, regardless of any public outcry.

"At our last planning and zoning commission meeting they voted to have the statue temporarily removed while they did some summertime work down at the park," Florsheim said.

A visitor to Harbor Park Monday said we should not be trying to change history.

"What upsets me is my mother and father‘s name was on that statue," said Charles DiBenedetto. "They donated for that statue to be there."

There’s been talk of moving the Middletown statue to a private property, perhaps the Italian Society, which sits right next-door to City Hall.

"It would be very visible there," said Nick Fazzino, Vice Chair of Middletown's Planning & Zoning Commission. "I mean, it wouldn’t be any difference having it there or where it was. I mean, you’re basically going to see it."

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The Sons and Daughters of Italy organization denounces claims that Columbus was owned slaves or was racist, noting that in his diary from his first voyage to the West Indies he wrote the natives were “well-made with fine shapes and faces...their eyes were large and very beautiful...straight-limbed without exception and handsomely shaped.”

Florsheim says their statue is being stored at the City's Public Works Department. There's no timetable for the statue to come down in New Haven.