Following this weekend’s Unite the Right rally and subsequent violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, the discussion around monuments to oppressive regimes has re-emerged in cities around the country—including Chicago.
This morning, John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago tweeted a plea for the city to remove the Balbo Monument that has long stood in Grant Park. The monument, which features an ancient Roman pillar standing on top of a podium, was given to the city of 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 also features an inscription which honors fascist Italy and Imperial Rome.
It seems that every few years there is a new discussion about the monument’s merits and whether it should stand in Chicago’s greatest public park, but it has remained in its place in Grant Park despite its very clear and direct connection to fascism. However, Greenfield suggests that the city shouldn’t just stop with the removal of the Balbo Monument: He also asks the city to rename Balbo Drive. In place of the monument and street name, Greenfield suggests honoring Italian immigrants Saint Frances Cabrini or Enrico Fermi.
Across the country, citizens are calling for the removal of monuments to the Confederacy and its figureheads, sometimes even taking matters into their own hands. Yesterday in Durham, North Carolina, a group of protestors toppled a monument to Confederate soldiers that had been standing outside of the Durham County courthouse since 1924. While some elected representatives appear to condone the abrupt removal of the statue by protestors, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper tweeted shortly after the event pleading that “there is a better way to remove these monuments.”
What should become of Mussolini’s gift to Chicago and the downtown street named after the former leader of the Italian Air Force?