In Bridgeport the cultural wars continue.
Behind the scenes former State Rep. Christopher Caruso and ex two-term Mayor Lenny Paoletta engaged in multiple conversations with community leaders supportive of scrubbing the statue of Christopher Columbus from Seaside Park to reach some common ground.
Caruso said progress was being made then he was “blindsided” by Mayor Joe Ganim and even City Councilman Jorge Cruz who had initially called for the statue to be taken down then reversed himself in support of a community dialogue.
“Jorge Cruz is out there pretending he took the statue down when he agreed to back off from taking it down and have a conversation,” says Caruso. “Ganim blindsided me after agreeing to let the dialogue play out. The Italian community that has done a lot for this city through philanthropy is being disrespected.”
Monday afternoon when Caruso believed discussions would continue the statue was removed.
“A lot of emotional decisions are being made across the country,” Caruso said. “I support Black Lives Matter but some people are hijacking the message to the detriment of others. We looked at this as a history-teaching moment to work together to create context that works for everyone.”
Caruso added that if Bridgeport has no plans to repurpose the Columbus statue, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti wants it in his city.
Caruso added this prepared statement:
In the current climate of national unrest, members of the Bridgeport Common Council and leaders in the Greater Bridgeport Italian-American community are determined to peacefully work together on sensitive issues that have potential to fracture the Bridgeport community. After a meeting initiated by Councilman Jorge Cruz with Italian-American representatives, the Councilman accompanied by colleagues Alfredo Castillo, Maria Pereira, Denese Taylor-Moye and Eneida Martinez, decided not to pursue the removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue in Seaside Park. Everyone agreed that after years of not only peacefully co-existing but supporting each other through cultural celebrations, community events and natural tragedies and disasters, it is important to continue a dialogue to find consensus on potentially divisive issues in order to continue to unite Bridgeport. Members of both groups agreed to meet again to discuss promising opportunities to work together on projects such as, but not limited to, honoring the legacies of other Bridgeport ethnic and community leaders.