COLUMBUS, Ohio — The largest city named for Christopher Columbus has called off its observance of the divisive holiday that honors the explorer, making a savvy move to tie the switch to a politically safe demographic: veterans.
Ohio’s capital city, population 860,000, will be open for business Monday after observing Columbus Day probably “for as long as it had been in existence,” said Robin Davis, a spokeswoman for Democratic Mayor Andrew Ginther. City offices will close instead on Veterans Day, which falls on Nov. 12 this year.
Native Americans and allied groups have long used Columbus Day to elevate issues of concern to them. That includes a peaceful protest of prayers, speeches and traditional singing in 2016 at Columbus City Hall — underneath the statue of the explorer that sits out front — to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The decision to stop observing the holiday was not triggered by the national movement to abolish Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day as a way of recognizing victims of colonialism, Davis said. Columbus Day marks the Italian explorer’s arrival in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.
“We have a number of veterans who work for the city, and there are so many here in Columbus,” Davis said. “We thought it was important to honor them with that day off.” And, she said, the city doesn’t have the budget to give its 8,500 employees both days off, she said.