GLEN ROCK, NJ - While the Borough Council has decided to keep Columbus Day on its borough calendar, one local resident who wants Columbus Day off the borough calendar asked for her opinion to be heard in full. Below is the full transcript she released to which she read at the May 8 council meeting. The original article is below the comments.

Resident Becca Coll's comments to the public before the Mayor and Borough Council on May 8: "I am one of the people who asked the council to change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.  I started the petition to see whether the change had widespread support.

The petition was on Facebook’s Glen Rockers group for about a day when I closed it down. At the time I closed it down, the petition had 92 signatures in support of changing the name of the holiday from Glen Rock residents alone.  If I had left it up for more than a day, I am sure many more signatures would have been added. On the other side, many others felt that Columbus Day was a day to honor Italian Heritage.  If we are honoring Italian Heritage and our Italian friends, which I support, [especially after hearing what my neighbors said here tonight], then we should be straightforward about what we are doing and call it Italian Heritage Day.  We should not continue to celebrate a man who did terrible things to human beings.

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"I closed the petition because of the vitriol expressed by some of the Glen Rock residents who opposed changing the name of the holiday.  I am letting you know this information so you understand why others may not be here speaking up in favor of changing the name. On the day I posted the petition, I was not on Facebook for very long before I exited it to focus on my job.  The next thing I heard about the petition was when my child contacted me from school. Somebody had shown her a screen shot of one of our Glen Rock neighbors calling me insane on the Glen Rocker’s Facebook page.     

"The name calling did not stop there, and every insult hurled at me seemed to draw at least half a dozen likes and loves.  My neighbors called me “pathetic,” an “idiot,” and a “snowflake.” Residents urging me to move away drew multiple “likes.”  Many mocked me or told me I was making a fool of myself.  One speculated on a different page that I was being paid to advance issues in my home town, or to build my resume, a bizarre viewpoint that several others readily (and inexplicably) agreed with.  Apparently in response to my comment that Columbus sold women and girls into sexual slavery, one man replied, “I hear he only sold people that complained about everything….Can you blame him?”  One man suggested that some of us should try tide pods, a reference to children dying by ingesting detergent pods.  One neighbor contacted me through the petition itself and called me a loser and an interloper.  And those were just the people I determined are currently living in Glen Rock and whose posts have not been deleted.

"Almost all of those opposing me painted me as a radical.  But this idea is not radical. It is not extreme. It is mainstream around the country, and it is inevitable here too.  Six states have already renamed the holiday Indigenous People’s Day or Native American Day. Many other states never recognized the holiday at all.  Hundreds of towns and cities throughout the nation have changed the name to Indigenous People’s Day, including Newark.

"And with good reason.

"Christopher Columbus was guilty of horrible atrocities, which are well documented in contemporaneous writings from the time and by historians.  I have read original source documents and respected second source documents. There is one particularly troubling letter from Columbus’ underling describing how Columbus gave him a woman, who tried to fight him off with her nails until she finally gave up after he savagely whipped her with a rope.  Another letter I read written by Columbus himself described earning gold by taking and selling indigenous girls as young as 9 years old. Columbus captured men and boys as well, and forced all of them into slavery. 

"We should not continue to celebrate a man who did terrible things to human beings whose descendants live among us.

"However, with the frenzied emotions this debate has stirred, I suggest we table this issue to allow neighbors more time to speak with each other rationally.

"Disagreement does not have to be divisive.  I am calling on my neighbors to try to do better, to allow for disagreement without belligerence, and to re-learn how to be respectful in today’s environment."

Editor's Note: Several individuals who spoke that same evening refuted the idea Columbus committed attrocities, as included in the article below posted on May 9.

GLEN ROCK, NJ – The Borough Council unanimously decided to keep Columbus Day on the 2020 borough calendar after more than 100 Italian Americans and supporters attended the council meeting, some speaking of Italian contributions to society, both nationally and locally.

Last night's standing-room-only crowd, many from out of town, were adamant in their message: do not take Columbus Day off the borough calendar.

One resident, Becca Coll, spoke in opposition to keeping the holiday on the calendar. She said she was one of the people who did not want Christopher Columbus's name attached to an Italian heritage holiday. In one day, a petition she posted online which agreed with her stance gained 92 signatures opposed to keeping the day on the calendar and suggested naming it Indigenous People's Day.

(Editor's Note: Coll requested the quotes be removed. Refer to statement above.)

Mayor Bruce Packer and each council member offered their thoughts on the issue prior to voting unanimously to keep it on the calendar.

Councilman Mike O'Hagan, who was not in attendance at the last council work session due to work commitments, pushed for the council to take a vote before going into the regular meeting at 8 p.m. Councilman Bill Leonard, made the motion to keep the holiday as is on the calendar but continue the discussion about a possible Indigenous People's Day on a separate day.

Mayor Packer released the following statement this morning: “We listened to the various viewpoints of our residents and decided that no change would be made to the 2020 Borough Calendar. We are thankful to all the residents who attended our meetings and who reached out with their thoughtful points of view. We move on with a much better respect and understanding of all sides of the issue, including the significance of this holiday to our Italian-American residents and neighbors that often goes well beyond the man that it is named for.”

During the meeting, Packer said he regretted letting his personal feelings known, which was to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day. He does not vote on issues unless there is a tie. He explained a couple of times during the meeting his only motivation on this or any topic is to bring it to the council's attention for discussion.

Councilwoman Mary Barchetto, who did not change her opinion from the last work session, went next. "We're here to represent you no matter how small or how large the issue," she said. "We're your elected officials and we're willing to listen to you. We have your best interests at heart."

Councilwoman Arati Kreibich, who was previously in favor of changing the calendar, said she appreciated that people were there from "near and far."

"Whether we agree with you or not, it's all important," she said. "We take you seriously. Our intention is to listen to you and solve problems. Our intention is to be more inclusive and not to exclude."

Council President Kristine Morieko, who was opposed to changing the calendar from the start, said she felt the council lacked jurisdiction on the matter, but when the press and social media posts became involved, it became a bigger issue. "We do listen to you," she said. "But there is no need to pit neighbor against neighbor."

Councilwoman Amy Martin, who was previously in favor of the change, said part of the council's job is not to back down from discussing controversial issues. "I am Italian, from Sicily," she said. "There's always room for more. I care about inclusion. I think this mayor has been exceptional on inclusion."

Regarding decisions, such as this one, Martin said the public sometimes gets the perception the council is "ramrodding" them through. "While there's sometimes pressure to make decisions fast," she assured the audience they make decisions thoughtfully.

Councilman O'Hagan apologized for not being able to attend the last work session but was clear on his position. "I'm not in favor of this in any way shape or form. I respect other's opinions. Believe me, I've been taken to the woodshed many times on issues. I do feel so passionate about this. I would like a formal vote tonight."

Councilman Bill Leonard said he wanted to "go on the record" as not supporting changing the day on the calendar, consisten with his opinion at the last work session. "I am an Italian American, in spite of my light skin and red hair," he said, getting a chuckle out of the crowd.

Andre’ DiMino, a member of the Board of Directors for the Italian American One Voice Coalition, was the first public speaker and explained part of his group’s mission as addressing propaganda about Italian culture and, along those lines, the history of Columbus. He cited Rafael Ortiz’s book, “Christopher Columbus, The Hero: Defending Columbus from Modern Day Revisionism.” DiMino brought a personal letter from Ortiz addressed to the council urging them to keep the day on the calendar.

DiMino was a guest on the 970AM Joe Piscopo morning radio show a couple of weeks ago discussing the Glen Rock calendar issue. Piscopo, an unabashed proud Italian, urged Glen Rock not to take action on changing the holiday, as well.

During the meeting, Mayor Packer invited Piscopo to Glen Rock to show him around.

Ron D’Argenio, a resident for 66 years, said when his father came home from WWII, he was discriminated over a zoning issue because the board at the time could not understand what he was saying through his accent.

“Whatever you agree on, don’t make it a hyphenated holiday,” he said, characterizing the attempt to change the calendar as an “attack on Western civilization.”

“This is hindsight history,” D’Argenio said. “It’s a condescending game to play political tricks on the dead who are not here to defend themselves.”

Another man who called himself an Irish American, said he was there to support Italians. “I’m so sick and tired of this culture always being attacked.”

Yet another resident likened the attempt to change the calendar as Stalin- and Alinsky-esk by “isolating, demonizing and destroying.”

Several more individuals spoke their peace, as well, defending Italians and Columbus, agreeing the historical figure was misunderstood and not a “genocidal maniac” as he has recently been accused.

While there was some confusion about revisiting the matter in the future, it has most assuredly been put to rest by the council’s vote for 2020.