In June 2020, as attacks on Columbus statues across the country heated up, a group of Italian Americans led by Carlo Vaniglia started meeting at Arrigo Park in Little Italy every Sunday morning. Originally dubbed “Coffee with Columbus,” the gatherings were meant as a peaceful show of support for their heritage. When the city of Chicago decided to remove the Columbus statues in the middle of the night, the get-togethers morphed into a protest against the move. In the months that followed, others joined in and the Chicago Italian-American Patriots group was born.
The Patriots organized a 2020 Columbus Day rally in Arrigo Park; created their own Columbus statue, which they wheel out every Sunday; and started a Facebook pages under the names “Columbus Chris” and “Chicago Italian-American Patriots” with a combined following of more than 2,000.
“The Sunday at Arrigo ritual has become so much more than a protest against the removal of our statues,” says Calo Bucaro, one of the group’s leaders. “We’ve created a safe place where strangers from all areas and backgrounds can gather to enjoy the things Italian-Americans love — food, song, laughter, music and good conversation.
“Sunday at Arrigo has become Sunday with family,” Bucaro says. “The group is dedicated to fostering unity within the Italian-American community while helping others understand why Columbus is so important to us. We encourage everyone to show their support by showing up.”