Today Americans consider Italians to be “white” but that was not always the case.
In the nineteenth century when Italians (and other southern and eastern Europeans) started to come to the United States they were considered to be on the same social status as blacks.
Over the decades Italian-Americans earned their “whiteness” and Columbus Day (declared a federal holiday in 1968) and statues of Christopher Columbus are symbols of that acceptance.
I’m sure they now fear a loss of those symbols may mean a loss of their white privilege too. So they literally take up arms and defend the Christopher Columbus statue.
Armed vigilantes guarded Philly’s Christopher Columbus statue; outside consultant to investigate city’s use of force against protesters – Philadelphia Inquirer (paywall)
White immigrants weren’t always considered white — and acceptable – The Undefeated
White Ni–er – Wikipedia: During all the 19th century until the early part of the 20th, Italian immigrants in the United States were often referred to as “white ni–ers”.
Columbus Day – Wikipedia: In 1966, Mariano A. Lucca, from Buffalo, NY, founded the National Columbus Day Committee, which lobbied to make Columbus Day a federal holiday. These efforts were successful and Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1968.