What Statues Should They Tear Down in Chicago?
It’s open season on statues as Confederate symbols are crumbling faster than a speeding rock in the fallout of this month’s violence between white supremacists and counter-protesters over removing the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.
Suddenly mayors across the country have sped up plans to take down some of the nation’s 718 memorials to the Confederacy which fought in the Civil War to preserve slavery.
But what about here?
Illinois fought for the North against the South to end slavery and keep the nation united. While there are no Confederate statues standing here to tear down, there is a monument people are demanding to remove.
John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago tweeted recently for our city to remove the Balbo Monument in Grant Park. The monument with ancient Roman pillars on top of a podium was given to Chicago in 1933 by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to commemorate Italian general Italo Balbo’s transatlantic flight to Chicago for the Century of Progress World’s Fair. The monument honors fascist Italy and Imperial Rome.
Didn’t we fight a war to end fascism?
Greenfield, according to Curbed Chicago, suggested replacing the Mussolini monument to Fascism with a tribute to Italian immigrants St. Frances Cabrini or Enrico Fermi so the Italian community won’t feel slighted. He also suggests renaming Balbo Drive.
However, Aldermen Gilbert Villegas and Ed Burke are pushing to petition the Chicago Park District to remove the Balbo Column and rename Balbo Drive after “a late Chicago mayor who never was honored by having a building or street dedicated to his memory,” according to Time Out Chicago.
Another Italian that has infuriated many people, particularly the Native American Indian population, is Christopher Columbus. Students in Chicago and another suburb told city governments to no longer honor Christopher Columbus Day because of what the world explorer did to the native population. Columbus enslaved the natives, treated them like workhorse animals and sex slaves, fed them to his dogs and cut off the hands of those who did not work hard enough. He slaughtered tens of thousands, beginning a process of ethnic cleansing across the continent.
The Chicago City Council already passed a resolution to honor Indigenous People’s Day on the day the city honors Columbus Day holiday, and the American Indian Center is trying to get the state to pass a law so that Columbus is no longer honored here. There are already many states out West that do not celebrate him and instead honor the history of our native population.
I remember being quite startled when I visited New York last week to see a rather large cityscape view of the 1892 completed monument to Columbus at W. 59th Street which stands 76 feet tall.
In the wake of Charlottesville, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wants to take down the Columbus statue, while NY Mayor Bill de Blasio stated the city will look into removing the statue.
Fox reported other statues around the country that could be on the chopping block – The Philadelphia City Council is looking at removing the statue of late Philadelphia Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, whom many see as a corrupt and brutal cop who alienated and targeted minorities. Alt-right activists would like to topple a statue of the Soviet Union founder V.I. Lenin statue in Seattle, however, the city can’t remove it because it sits on private property. Christians are demanding the removal of a monument to a Satanic Temple monument of a goat deity that sits in a warehouse in Detroit. The Satanic Temple had planned to move the statue to the Arkansas statehouse, in protest of a Ten Commandments monument being erected there, but their plans were stymied when a 32-year-old man plowed his Dodge Dart into the Ten Commandments monument in June, less than 24 hours after it was installed.
The Soviet Union removed hundreds of communist statues after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the US orchestrated a giant publicity stunt with the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.