Comedian Joe Piscopo on Wednesday slammed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and city officials for removing Columbus Day from the schools’ calendar, saying that Italian Americans will “fight tooth and nail” to have it restored.
Piscopo’s comments came after the city Department of Education put out a new calendar last week, referring to October 11 – which has historically been “Columbus Day” – as “Indigenous People’s Day.”
Amid an initial pushback, the calendar was updated to say “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day.”
“We’re very upset that Mayor de Blasio is taking away Columbus Day in New York City schools,” Piscopo told Fox News in an interview.
Earlier Wednesday Italian-American heritage groups, including the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the Order of Sons of Italy in America, and the Italian American Coalition, among others, held a rally at Columbus Circle to demand that de Blasio reinstate “Columbus Day.”
“We worked so hard to get here as Italian-Americans,” Piscopo, who was at the rally, told Fox News. “Now they want to take [Columbus Day] away. And we’re fighting that tooth and nail and are not going to let that happen.”
Columbus Day has been celebrated in the United States in some capacity since the 18th century. After a high-profile lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison encouraged Americans to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. Then in 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day as a national holiday.
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For decades the holiday has stoked controversy. Indigenous groups have argued that day pinpoints the beginning of the colonization of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade.
Piscopo, whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy, said that for Italians, especially those living in New Jersey and New York, Columbus Day represents not just one man, but Italian Americans’ heritage.
“They’re trying to just eliminate it. And [we’ve] never been respected as Italians. So now we’re putting our foot down and we drew a line in the sand and we will have a holiday. We’re going to celebrate Columbus Day. And we’re going to have the biggest parade we’ve ever had.”
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Piscopo clarified that he, and the groups who participated in Wednesday’s rally “celebrate all ethnicities because that is the foundation of America.”
“I’m outside of Newark, New Jersey. There’s every walk of life you could possibly imagine,” he said. “And that is the strength of America. The Italians are part of that and we don’t want to take it away.”
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Fox News has reached out to de Blasio’s office with a request for comment but did not hear back before publication.