Mayor, governor defend Columbus Day Parade amid controversy

New York City's Columbus Day Parade went on despite the rain and the controversy surrounding this year's event. A fixture in the city since 1929, the parade honors explorer Christopher Columbus and Italian-American culture.

Mayor Bill de Blasio upset some Italian-American groups recently after he appointed a commission to study whether to remove various statues or symbols in the city, including the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, that may be considered offensive or symbols of hate.

But on this day, he said he marched with pride in the parade for his heritage. He said the parade honors Italian Americans and their contributions to the city and the nation.

"You can debate the historical figure of Christopher Columbus, but you can't debate the contribution of Italian-Americans to this country," de Blasio said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also marched. He said he, too, is proud to be part of the parade.

"Should we honor Christopher Columbus, or should we honor the indigenous people?" Cuomo said. "It's not an either, or. It's both."

Demonstrators opposed to honoring Columbus with a statue or parade circulated a petition to have this day renamed "Indigenous Peoples' Day." They also want to see the statue in Columbus circle taken down. Loaiza Rivera, a demonstrator, said Columbus represents colonialism and genocide.

Outside City Hall, another group held a rally to demand school children be taught a more accurate version of history.