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PA Judges Unanimously Revive Lawsuit That Would Prevent the Removal of Pittsburgh’s Christopher Columbus Statue

In appeal, a panel of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judges ruled 7-0 to send the lawsuit back to lower court for reexamination, stating that City Hall does not have “…’free reign’ to act as it pleases in defiance of the law.”

PITTSBURGH, April 20, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Friday overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit that was filed to block the planned removal of Pittsburgh’s Columbus statue, writing in a 24-page opinion that a lower court “erred” in its dismissal of the case in 2022.

Philadelphia litigator George Bochetto filed the lawsuit, and subsequent appeal, on behalf of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), a not-for-profit cultural and fraternal organization that was founded in Pittsburgh in 1930; ISDA is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).

“I am delighted the Commonwealth Court agreed that the dismissal of this lawsuit by the lower court was plain error and that, while the mayor of Pittsburgh has certain First Amendment rights, he does not have free reign to violate the law,” said Bochetto. “I am also hopeful that the new mayor will sit down with me to reach a resolution without further costly litigation and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The reinstated case will now go back before Judge John T. McVay, Jr. of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas “for further factfinding and decision,” per the opinion.

“The bronze Columbus statue in Schenley Park, casted in 1958 after years of meager donations from poor Italian immigrants, symbolizes the contributions and sacrifices of not only Italian immigrants, but of all immigrants, to the growth and success of the city of Pittsburgh. This history has the same right to be preserved and celebrated as does the history of all other groups,” said Basil M. Russo, who is president of both ISDA and COPOMIAO.

In December 2022, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court — in a separate lawsuit — sided with Bochetto when it blocked Philadelphia’s former mayor from uprooting the city’s 148-year-old Columbus statue from a public plaza. The outcome of that case weighed heavily in yesterday’s Pittsburgh ruling (see pages 17 – 19).

Columbus’ History

In 1892, U.S. President Benjamin Harrison organized the first national Columbus Day parade in New York City to ease a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Italy, which surfaced a year prior when the largest lynch mob ever to assemble on American soil murdered 11 innocent Italian immigrants in the streets of New Orleans. 

Given the massive success of President Harrison’s NYC parade (attended by more than one million people), Italian Americans built Columbus statues across the U.S. through the 1900s to help fuel their assimilation. Pittsburgh’s Columbus statue was constructed to pay tribute to this history. Today, the holiday honors Italian American pride and heritage.

Over the past two years, Basil Russo and his Italian American peers have worked directly with White House officials to develop Columbus Day proclamations that explore the history behind the holiday. 

See the 2022 and 2023 Columbus Day Proclamations for further context.

About COPOMIAO

Formed in 1975 and based in NYC, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is a collective of 63 of the most influential, cultural, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation groups in the nation. https://copomiao.org

Contact

George Bochetto, Esq.
[email protected]

Basil M. Russo
[email protected]

SOURCE The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pa-judges-unanimously-revive-lawsuit-that-would-prevent-the-removal-of-pittsburghs-christopher-columbus-statue-302122732.html
Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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