NYS Supreme Court Hears Appeal on Columbus Statue Removal
On April 3, oral arguments were held in the lawsuit seeking to block the city of Syracuse from removing the Columbus Statue. It is unclear when a decision will be released. NOON and Women of Italian Heritage CNY (WISH CNY) filed a joint Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) Brief before the Appellate Court 4th Division of the NYS Supreme Court. The 75-page document supports the decision of the City of Syracuse to remove the Columbus Statue and can be read here. The brief includes information which explains the evolving truthful historical understanding of Columbus, and the progression of dedicated public engagement regarding the future of the Columbus monument in Syracuse which otherwise would not be available to the judges.
Judge Neri Denies Syracuse the Right to Remove the Columbus State
On March 11, 2022 – the 17th anniversary of the Onondaga Nation’s filing of its historic Land Rights Action – Judge Neri released his decision prohibiting the City of Syracuse from removing the Columbus statue in the center of our city. The City has already filed an appeal of the Judge’s decision. NOON is outraged by this additional injustice heaped upon the people of Syracuse and our Onondaga neighbors. We will continue to campaign actively for the removal of the statue.
Over 75 people attended a vigil organized by NOON and WISH on March 14 at the site of the Columbus Statue to express our opposition to this slap in the face to our city. Look for more action items coming soon.
Columbus Court Case awaiting decision
On Thursday, morning January 13, 2022, Judge Gerard Neri heard arguments from the City of Syracuse and the Columbus Monument Corporation regarding the lawsuit brought by the Corp. seeking to prevent the city of Syracuse from removing the Columbus Statue.
About 30 supporters of Replace Columbus vigiled outside the courthouse with a banner reading: “Columbus Didn’t Discover Anything – 1000s of Native Nations Were Already Here”, signs saying “Celebrate Diversity, Replace Columbus” and more. The vigil and news conference were organized by NOON and WISH.
Judge Neri had previously prevented the Onondaga Nation from filing an Amicus (friend of the court) Brief. Adding to the long history of US courts disregarding Indigenous voices. After the vigil as we tried to enter the courtroom, the court officers continued the practice of prioritizing the Italian American pro-Columbus crew by inviting in anyone associated with (the Petitioners on the lawsuit were invited first, then others associated with the Columbus Monument Corporation before allowing ‘guests’ to enter the courtroom. As a result, almost none of the members of NOON or WISH who attended were able to be in the courtroom itself. Instead, we were sent to overflow rooms where the sound was nearly impossible to understand.
Judge Neri continued to demonstrate what appeared to be sympathy with the pro-Columbus folks through his persistent questioning of the lawyer for the City of Syracuse and his very cordial relationship with the lawyer for the Corporation. The judge made no decision at the end of the hearing and gave no indication of the timeframe for releasing his decision. In either case, it’s likely his decision will be appealed.
NOON and WISH are organizing two online workshops in March to give the public an opportunity to hear the input that the Onondaga Nation was prevented from providing to the Court and why public monuments are important.
Lawn signs still available!!
Syracuse Cultural Workers, 400 Lodi St., Syracuse map – Mon-Fri. 9:15 am to 4:45 pm
For additional pick up or delivery options, email Sue Eiholzer
There is no charge for signs, but donations are warmly welcomed to cover the costs. You can donate securely online here, when you pick up signs or send a check to NOON, 2013 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
As part of a broad public relations campaign, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, in collaboration with Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage, is distributing the lawn signs above in the greater Syracuse area. We also have an FAQ on Columbus Statue Removal from the Circle.
NOON believes that the Columbus Statue should be removed from the center of our diverse city and replaced with a broader cultural heritage display which honors not only the Italian Immigrants who erected the monument, but all the varied peoples and cultures who have contributed to the richness of our region.
While we respect the effort and sacrifice of working class Italian-Americans in funding the statue during the 1920s and 30s, as more has been learned about Columbus’ role in the attempted destruction of Native peoples – both through his personal actions and his legacy – it is time for a new vision in the heart of downtown Syracuse, a proudly diverse city, which sits within original territory of the Onondaga people.
Buttons and window signs are now available too!
Find them at:Syracuse Cultural Workers, 9:30-4:00, 400 Lodi St, Syracuse, NY 13203; Syracuse Peace Council, 2013 E, Genesee St, contacting email@example.com. For a personal delivery, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Download and print the window signs:
Onondaga Nation Statement
Resilient Indigenous Action Coalition (RIAC) Statement
Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage (WISH) Statement
Indigenous Values Initiative Statement
Interfaith Works Columbus Circle Action Committee Final Report Oct 7, 2020
The Burden of Columbus
Columbus Didn’t Discover Anything
“Never the Wrong Time to do the Right Thing”
Whose Hero? Whose History?
Is the removal of the Columbus monument an erasure of history? No. The legacy of Christopher Columbus will not be forgotten because it cannot be forgotten. His voyage, his mission, his actions, and the papal policies that entitled them have irrevocably changed the course of human history in countless ways. They continue to authorize settler colonialism and the structural violence that accompanies it. Of course, the removal of Columbus’ likeness will not repair the inequalities we face as a community today, but representations matter. The figures we venerate in public spaces send messages about who we are as a community. We seek not to forget or to erase, instead we ask the people of Syracuse: is this the history we want celebrated in our city center? Is this historical figure a hero for our children? The Columbus monument has sewn division in our community. Its continued presence tacitly condones the domination of one people over another. As such, the members of NOON strongly urge the Mayor to immediately remove the Columbus Statue and convene a committee to reimagine the space as a place of unity and healing for our city. The solution to this divisive issue lies in the collective work that we must do together. Through the democratic reconsideration of our historical narratives and active listening to our community’s memory keepers we will renew our city’s heritage and reassure our children of its bright future.
The members of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) express our thankful appreciation to Mayor Ben Walsh for his effort to reimagine the circle as an educational space to honor Italian-American neighbors and other peoples who call Syracuse and Central New York home. Our city leader’s recognition that we must not continue to celebrate people and events which cause suffering to so many helps our community move towards healing. NOON respects that there are people who are upset or confused by the decision to remove a figure of a historical figure from a public space. We believe that the continuing educational changes will benefit all people in CNY, especially our youth and future generations of Syracusans.
We thank the following people and groups who played essential leadership roles in creating this change locally:
- Onondaga people who have sacrificed time and energy to work with their neighbors over many decades to increase education about the real history and experience of colonization against their people and others around the world.
- Henninger High School Public Policy students who called on the Syracuse City School Board to recognize the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day back in 2017.
- Black, Indigenous, and other community activists of Color who publicly made the connection between the racist violence which promotes police murders of manifold souls including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the continued glorification of people who led genocides.
- The Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York for their request to move their statue in the city of Buffalo.
- Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage in Central New York (WISH CNY), came together to make a statement in rejection of Columbus as a symbol of their cultural identity by promoting historical truth-telling. They share the joy of their Italian-American heritage through educational outreach, while honoring the rich diversity of the CNY’s Italian, immigrant and indigenous ancestors.
- Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI) for their important educational work on the Doctrine of Discovery and other issues.
We recognize that broad changes to public symbols such as monuments are meaningful. The re-use of Syracuse’s space to facilitate education is a sign of positive values changes that redefine and preserve our future. Removing the statue is a nod to another significant task to accomplish: undoing the current influence of the Doctrine of Discovery (DOD), also called the Doctrine of Christian Domination.
We are proud of NOON’s work over the past 20 years to help amplify the public call to reject figureheads used to excuse violent domination of peoples globally. NOON looks forward to further supporting this redevelopment process with attention to truthfully recognizing the Onondaga as legal stewards of this territory.