2 Groups, 2 Views: Heated Words Over Christopher Columbus Statue in Waterbury

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Two groups stood outside city hall with two very different views on what the statue means.

"Why should they tear down our statue? This is in Waterbury. I was born here. This is Christopher Columbus. He was of Italian descent. We're proud of this statue," said Waterbury resident Tom Cardinale.

"He was an oppressor, and if you mean you want change, this will be change. You can't have a Black Lives Matter flag hanging there as a show and then have a hateful person there," said Fahd Syed, the organizer of the event and member of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Syed says he wants to uplift Black and brown communities. Speakers discussed the importance of racial equality and how to get there. They say the history of Christopher Columbus is filled with violence and enslavement and that any reverence for him is based on a myth.

"There's nothing to be honoring him," said Waterbury resident Linwood Harrison. "He never should have been erected anywhere in this country."

But Antonio Rubbo, who is an Italian American and President of Pontelandolfo Community Club, says the statue should remain.

"It's over 600 years of history. Why should it come down?" said Rubbo.

Less than an hour into the rally, about 20 people who want to keep the statue arrived. Some attending the Black Lives Matter rally became upset and started yelling.

Occasionally, police came in to separate them and others came in to try and keep everyone apart and the rally going.

Sometime later, Syed brought water for those around the statue and spoke with some of them, sharing his feelings, experiences and perspective.

"We just want equality for all people," Syed told them.

"We're in it together," one man replied.

Organizers say they'll be back at the Christopher Columbus statue Friday, demanding it is taken down.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the Waterbury mayor's office for comment on the statue debate but hasn’t yet heard back.

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