…And, arguably, so did the Knights of Columbus — the national Catholic service organization that has championed the Italian explorer against a long-standing campaign to dump him from the holiday calendar.
As we last reported here, the group was prepping for a battle royal in the state House this week to defend Colorado’s Columbus Day as well as the honor of the son of Genoa who became the fabled discoverer of the Americas.
The Knights doggedly fought House Bill 1327, the proposal that would have repealed Columbus Day as a state holiday in Colorado, and in the end, the bill went down to defeat in the House Local Government Committee on Wednesday. Sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, the bill died after two members of Salazar’s own party on the committee voted with minority Republicans against it. It never even had to make the trip down the hall to the GOP-run Senate to meet its demise; Dems did the deed.
Salazar’s bill included an extensive legislative declaration citing historical accounts of mass killings and other barbarism by Columbus’s crew members during his expeditions to the New World. The Knights of Columbus pushed back, contending the mariner was the victim of revisionist history. The organization argues Columbus is just a scapegoat for all the calamities that befell native peoples following the European conquest and that he actually had warned his crew against the kinds of heinous acts now attributed to him.
And as we noted a few days ago, the Knights also contend the anti-Columbus Day campaign is itself suspect. They say long before the day was targeted by Native Americans, it was in the crosshairs of the nation’s original domestic terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant and anti-Italian, and it associated Columbus Day with those groups. The Knights of Columbus issued this public statement in advance of this week’s committee hearing:
Nearly a century ago, the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado targeted Catholics including Italian-Americans. One of the Klan’s tactics throughout the United States was the denigration of Christopher Columbus and the attempted suppression of the holiday in his honor. Last week, in a hearing tinged with offensive anti-Catholic overtones, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee advanced a plan to ban Columbus Day in what its advocates call a “progressive” step. In fact, it is regressive as it takes us back to what the Klan outlined in the 1920s in order to promote ethnic and religious resentment and marginalize and intimidate people with different religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. We urge the swift rejection of this bill in any future hearings.
Although the day has been a federal holiday since 1937, it first became a state holiday in Colorado in 1905. It has been a bone of contention in Denver, with opponents of the holiday clashing with and blocking participants in the city’s annual Columbus Day Parade in some years. Last October’s observance was relatively peaceful, however; the parade went on without incident while opponents held a separate demonstration elsewhere.
While the state holiday remains in place, the Denver City Council voted last year to designate the day as Indigenous Peoples Day.