Voicemail threatens marches against Indigenous Peoples Day

By Laurie Hamame - lhamame@aimmediamidwest.com

A voicemail left for Oberlin city council earlier this month threatens backlash if the effort to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day passes.

Councilwoman Sharon Pearson recently characterized the message as “threatening” when telling the city’s human relations commission about the call.

A transcript shows Karen Capone of West Chester, Pa., called to say she would organize Italian-American groups to march against the decision and appeal to the federal government if Columbus Day is abolished in Oberlin.

“Let me tell you something. You are discriminating against the country’s Italian-Americans and we don’t like it. We find that very insulting to us,” she said. “If you do that, we’re going to have to take this matter into our own hands.”

She continued, saying Italian-Americans are good, honest, and hardworking people who respect the diversity of others and that many find council’s resolution objectionable.

“We have several groups on call right now waiting to see your decision,” Capone said.

“We will not be insulted and defamed in any way.”

Oberlin is on track to be the first city in Ohio to denounce Christopher Columbus by refusing to observe the federal holiday in his honor.

Capone isn’t the only Italian-American who has complained about the move.

Jonathan Petrea, a member of the Knights of Columbus, told council in June that repealing the holiday is unfair and hurtful.

A month later, Basil Russo, national president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, said Columbus Day is the vehicle by which Italian-Americans address their patriotism to the United States, and a way to confront the biases and prejudices they have faced since the 1800s.

City manager Rob Hillard said council will not hire additional security for its Aug. 21 meeting, when the resolution is up for its final vote.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame