In Close Vote, City Council Decides to Keep Columbus Day

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In one of the last votes of the 2016 City Council term last night, lawmakers decided to keep Columbus Day the way it is.

Councilman Brandon Scott had led a strong push to change the name of the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, later adding “and Italian-Americans” to the phrasing to appease concerns from those worried about dropping the name of an Italian historical figure from the holiday. The renaming effort was an attempt to honor the Native American populations who historians say Columbus helped decimate upon his arrival in the United States.

In November, the City Council gave Scott’s proposed measure preliminary approval in a 12-2 vote, which indicated strong support for the idea in the Council chambers. However, council members’ feelings appear to have changed within the last month, as indicated by the bill’s failure to pass last night. The vote was close, ending with seven “yes” votes, six “no” votes and two abstentions. It was one “yes” vote shy of passage.

Protesters who had gathered in City Hall in support of the name change were outraged by the council’s call. According to City Paper’s Edward Ericson Jr., some of them had been chanting, “There is no pride in genocide!” ahead of the vote, which led to a threat from Council President Jack Young that they would be kicked out if they couldn’t quiet down.

In the aftermath, that group wasn’t alone in being upset to learn Baltimore won’t be joining other jurisdictions that have changed the holiday’s name in respect to Native Americans and others who find it offensive. Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, Albuquerque and the entire state of Vermont are among those places that have removed Columbus’ name from the official holiday.

Meanwhile, a good number of Italian-Americans in Baltimore are rejoicing knowing they can keep their holiday, which they celebrate every year with a parade in Little Italy.

Councilman Scott said by phone on Tuesday afternoon that this vote wasn’t the last time Baltimore will be hearing about this issue. “We’re going to bring this issue up again,” he said. “We’re gonna work as always as we do with all communities and sides of this issue to try to push something forward in the next term.”

While the council voted not to change the name of Columbus Day, they did vote to implement Scott’s proposal for municipal ID cards in Baltimore, which he labeled the “most important” measure, as well as an overhaul of the city’s zoning laws that he noted will more closely regulate liquor stores seeking to open in residential communities.

This story has been updated with comment from Councilman Brandon Scott.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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