(The following story was provided by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans)
July 25 was the one-year-and-one-day anniversary of the removal of the Christopher Columbus statues by the City of Chicago. It was also the day Chicago’s Italian-American community turned out in droves to show unity and strength at the JCCIA’s “Pack the Park Italian Unity Day Rally.”
“After all that has been going on with the Columbus issue and the disrespect our community has been shown, we thought a day where the politicians and the press could see just how numerous and strong our community really is would be an effective way to be heard,” said JCCIA President Ron Onesti. “We want to be clear that we’re demanding the statutes be returned to their rightful places!”
Upward of 1,000 proud Italian Americans converged across from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at Arrigo Park, which is the site of one of the removed Columbus statues. Many Italian-American organizations were represented, with many participants arriving in buses arranged for by JCCIA. The Italian American Police Association joined the JCCIA in presenting the first annual Marco Difranco Hero Award. Difranco was the first Chicago Police Officer to succumb to COVID 19. The award was given as a gift to Marco’s mother and was presented to the 51 Chicago Police Officers who were injured while defending the Columbus Statue in Grant Park.
The crowd was away in green, white and red flags as the Italian and American anthems were performed by Daniella Crocco and Nick Pontarelli. The Teamsters Joint Council 25 semi-trailer was present along with food trucks and merchandise vendors.
“I was so proud, not only because of all who turned out to support of our cause, but also because of the amazing job the Chicago Police Department did of keeping us safe,” Onesti said. “We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”