Aug 22, 2022 - News

Removal of Columbus statues could be permanent

Photo of construction cranes removing a statue.
The Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park being removed on July 24, 2020. Photo: Derek R. Henkle/AFP via Getty Images

The Christopher Columbus statues might never again see the light of day.

Driving the news: The Chicago Monuments Committee released its long-awaited report Friday recommending the permanent removal of the three Columbus statues and 10 other problematic monuments.

  • The committee says the monuments were flagged for many reasons, including "promoting narratives of white supremacy" and "presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history."

Why it matters: The committee's report could fundamentally change the way Chicago handles problematic public pieces in the future.

Flashback: The committee was formed in 2020 after protesters attempted to tear down the Columbus statue in Grant Park, which led to arrests, injuries and violent skirmishes between police and protesters.

  • In one high-profile case, a police officer knocked out the teeth of an 18-year-old woman.
  • After their temporary removal, the statues' fate fell to a committee.

What they're saying: "We believe the report's ideas and recommendations will strengthen our City as our public art collection becomes more honest about our history and far more inclusive regarding who is represented and what stories are told," the committee co-chairs said in a statement.

The other side: Ron Onesti of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans told WTTW the recommendations were “preposterous.”

Yes, but: In March, Mayor Lori Lightfoot signaled she was in favor of returning the Columbus statue to Grant Park, and she has final say on the committee's recommendations.

Zoom in: The committee also recommended removing several other public pieces, including the tucked-away Balboa Monument near Soldier Field, which Benito Mussolini gave the city in 1933.

  • The committee recommended removing a statue of Union General Sheridan in Lincoln Park "because of scorched-earth tactics against the American Indians."
  • And the Marquette-Jolliet Memorial in Little Village because it "reinforces stereotypes of American Indians."

Read the full report

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