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Celebrators and protesters talk Columbus Day one week out from a - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Celebrators and protesters talk Columbus Day one week out from annual event

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It is one week until the annual Columbus Day celebration in Pueblo.

It’s an event that News 5 has covered for years as it continues to spark controversy in the city and beyond.

The event started when the Columbus Monument, which is front of the Rawlings Public Library, was built more than 100 years ago.

For 25 years an organized protest against the celebration has also taken place.

"The hope is to continue to build education. We know that through the legislature that will be how we abolish Columbus Day."

It’s a goal that Rita J. Martinez has had for many years. She’s the organizer of the annual Anti-Columbus Day Demonstration.

"He was a slave trader and that's all that he could really find was human bodies to take back,” said Martinez.

"People need to learn the history of Columbus to realize that it is not appropriate for a city, state, national holiday."

Next Monday will be a day of protest for Martinez and hundreds of others, but for Jerry Carleo it will be a time to celebrate.

"He was an extraordinary navigator,” said Carleo, a member of the local Sons of Italy Lodge.

"It's one more edition to particular Italian heritage that's added value, that's impacted world activities. His particular expedition that came to the New World is responsible for us even having the opportunity to talk with you today about this. That's how we remember him. That's how we think about that."

Carleo believes that "everybody has the right to celebrate their particular interest for their culture, their heritage. If there are individuals or groups that disagree with that we respect that."

Captain Kenny Rider of the Pueblo Police Department says he’s already reached out to organizers and protesters, and the department has a plan in place.

Captain Rider said, "Nobody wants to do anything that is going to escalate tension or anything like that."

For Carleo and his group the focus will be "not on anything except the celebration."

As for Martinez, she wants people to know that the basis of this demonstration “is not hate. The basis is being just, social justice."

The Columbus Monument itself is now a point of controversy.

A petition is going around to try and remove it.

As of Monday the petition had 71 signatures. The goal is to get 100.

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