A Chicago advisory committee on monuments has recommended that 41 statues, plaques and other honors around the city be removed, including three statues of Christopher Columbus.
The committee was formed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in light of fierce protests surrounding a Columbus statue in the city’s Grant Park, which the 2020 protesters tried to topple.
The city’s three Columbus statues were pre-emptively removed as a public safety measure, and the Chicago Monuments Project was launched to evaluate the rest of Chicago’s monuments.
The committee operates in a purely advisory report, and it is unclear if Mayor Lightfoot will follow its recommendations, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
As the city weighs the report, it will offer $50,000 in grants for new public art projects, which include a community-led monument to the victims of Chicago’s gun violence, and a memorial to the victims of Chicago Police Department torture, along with six other projects, according to the committee’s report.
The report’s criteria for calling to remove a statue included whether it was “promoting white supremacy” or was “memorializing an individual with connections to racist acts, slavery, and genocide”, among other rules in the same vein. Many of the monuments were “presenting inaccurate or demeaning characterizations of American Indians.”
Monuments marked for removal included, among others, an 2,000 Roman column erected to commemorate fascist Italian aviator Italo Balbo’s 1933 transatlantic flight to Chicago, a statue of Union Gen. Philip Sheridan over his actions in the Indian Wars, and reliefs on the DuSable bridge that “place the history of Chicago and the Battle of Fort Dearborn within an allegorical narrative of the triumph of Western civilization.”
Included in the report was a retort from Sergio Giangrande, committee member and former President of Chicago’s Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.
In reference to two of the Columbus statues, Mr. Giangrande wrote that “Chicago’s Italian American community donated a considerable amount to see the monuments realized,” referring to the 1893 Arrigo Park statue and the 1933 Grant Park statue, both created for World’s Fairs held in Chicago.
“Many Italian Americans strongly feel that these monuments are important symbols of our history. They must be respected, as with monuments that celebrate any other ethnic group,” Mr. Giangrande continued.