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The fight over a holiday Greenville to continue observing Columbus Day

John Willoughby

reporter2@greenepublishing.com

In a three-hour meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14, the Town of Greenville has elected, by majority, to keep Columbus Day on the books as an observed holiday and paid day off for city employees.

The contentious debate to keep Christopher Columbus Day or change the holiday took 15 minutes to conclude prior to moving forward to other town business. After hearing proposals from public works employees via Greenville Town Manager Edward Dean, which was the directive of the board at the October meeting, a decision has been made to keep the holiday at its current spot in October.

The discussion began one day after Christopher Columbus Day, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, where Mayor Brittni Brown expressed her opinion by stating "it's offensive" that the Town observed the holiday. She noted that "a lot of malicious things happened," pertaining to Christopher Columbus and the Americas.

Since 1991, Indigenous Peoples Day has grown in popularity as it is often observed in the place of Christopher Columbus Day. The controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus, according to history.com, highlights Columbus' interactions with indigenous people he labeled "indians," the introduction of diseases to native americans, the use of enslavement and violence and the coerced conversion of natives to Christianity.

At the moment, the Town of Greenville observes 13 holidays, according to Dean. Those include: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day (Fourth of July), Labor Day, Christopher Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

The Council directed Dean to take the issue to all town employees, and Town Clerk Kim Reams to her internal employees, to see which day would suit them to have a paid holiday, in place of Christopher Columbus Day.

Dean approached the podium stating that the general consensus had come up with a couple of days, but "the first priority was to just keep the holiday like it is."

"There was a couple of employees who were basically – they seemed offended that somebody was offended about the holiday because there's ambiguity, you know, surrounding what Christopher Columbus did or didn't [do] … It needs to be an equitable situation for the staff. Just moving one day and saying 'hey look, just because you're offended, then –'" Dean was interrupted by the rapping of the gavel.

"I'm sorry Mr. Dean, we've got to stay on topic," Mayor Brown stated.

"Hold on. Hold on," Dean replied. "It was my name [called] so please let me finish and I'm going to give you the same respect that you give me," he continued, while the gavel continued to rap. "This is a problem that we have in general."

"What I would like is for us to stay close to our agenda and not get off on other things. So I was not trying to stop you from presenting. I just wanted to make sure you did not go off into something and it lead us down a rabbit hole," Mayor Brown continued, re-informing Dean of the previous meeting's directive.

Dean continued to inform Mayor Brown and the council of the consensus by the town employees, noting that their first priority would be to leave the holiday "status quo." The other option, as Dean mentioned, would be a two-for-one holiday, including a personal holiday and allowing employees to have New Year's Eve, where as New Year's Eve is not an observed holiday. Mayor Brown informed Dean that adding an additional holiday wasn't the direction, but rather replacing Christopher Columbus Day with another holiday, which was to be determined after the consensus of town employees.

Following much discussion, Councilman Bobby Burnett made a motion to leave the already-observed holiday of Christopher Columbus Day as it is. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Teresa Harville.

"I would just like to say, just so I can make sure and I don't want to prolong the time so I won't read [the policy] verbatim out of [the policy book], but the town employees are not tasked with the responsibility of setting the holidays for the town. That's our job," Mayor Brown explained. "So, my understanding from last meeting is that we were going to get their input and weigh heavily on what they wanted when we were making our decision."

Dean mentioned that he was surprised when he realized the debate among the public works employees about the ambiguous merits of Christopher Columbus. "It's best to leave it where it's at because it's not broke. If it's not broke, don't fix it."

"Well, actually, Mr. Dean, it is broke," Mayor Brown replied.

"That's your opinion," Dean added.

"And I'm expressing," Mayor Brown stated, before Councilman Burnett called for a question, and was not acknowledged. Councilman Burnett once again called parliamentary for a question.

"The rules state that you must first be acknowledged, then you can call for a question and if you receive a second, you can go," Mayor Brown said. "I have not acknowledged you."

"My opinion, when you say it has not been broken, if the Town of Greenville would like to continue to be on record that we acknowledge a holiday that most have agreed is falace. It was false," Mayor Brown continued to express. "He did not discover America. He actually was deemed a murderer and brought disease to the Americas. That's why the school system no longer acknowledges the holiday."

Mayor Brown was then interrupted by Councilman Burnett, who called point of order. Town Attorney John Reid confirmed that Mayor Brown could continue. "I understand, I was reading all day today," Mayor Brown added, concluding that she would like for the Town of Greenville to come into the new age and no longer offer the holiday.

Making their way to a vote after the motion by Councilman Burnett and second by Councilwoman Harville to keep the holiday as is, the council voted to leave the current observance of Christopher Columbus Day, 3-2. Councilman Burnett and Councilwomen Harville and Cynthia James voted in favor while both Mayor Brown and Councilman Calvin Malone casted the dissenting votes.

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