Eradicating Chicago monuments is ‘akin to erasing historical past,’ some residents inform committee conducting evaluate


The chief of a metropolis fee charged with reviewing dozens of problematic monuments reported Wednesday that many Chicagoans who’ve commented on the method contended that eradicating monuments and statues could be “akin to erasing historical past.”

The feedback got here throughout a gathering of the Chicago Monuments Undertaking’s advisory committee, which was convened following Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s controversial choice to briefly take away two statues of Christopher Columbus after they turned focal factors of demonstrations over police brutality and racial injustice final summer time.

Erin Harkey, the primary deputy commissioner of the town’s Division of Cultural Affairs and Particular Occasions who’s heading the committee, additional defined that members of the general public have been most vocal about these two statues, in addition to monuments to the Italian fascist chief Italo Balbo and former U.S. presidents.

The 41 monuments which can be presently below evaluate had been picked for quite a lot of causes, like selling narratives of white supremacy, presenting inaccurate or demeaning representations of Native People and memorializing these “with connections to racist acts, slavery, and genocide.”

All through the assembly, committee members insisted that the method of reviewing the town’s monument is vital for addressing the previous and creating a way of therapeutic. Bonnie McDonald, the CEO and president of Landmarks Illinois and a co-chair of the committee, mentioned the challenge goals to “inform the reality” concerning the impacts of systemic racism and segregation and to supply an inclusive historical past of the town that elevates the native neighborhood.

“Lots of our monuments are telling a perpetual, dangerous and unfaithful narrative concerning the historical past, and likewise that these are offensive to many individuals who dwell right here right now,” McDonald mentioned.

Nonetheless, Harkey famous that members of the general public who commented throughout latest conferences have merely held “that folks aren’t good.”

“The expectation that the figures that we memorialize in these monuments have to achieve some unattainable bar by way of their stage of perfection is unimaginable to achieve,” Harkey mentioned, reiterating the general public sentiment.

Throughout Wednesday’s assembly, the one members of the general public who commented raised issues concerning the potential elimination of the Balbo monument in Burnham Park and the Columbus statues in Arrigo and Grant parks. However each struck conciliatory tones, saying they welcomed the open dialogue about public artwork.

“We must always add art work to the town moderately than tearing it down and depriving the individuals of viewing it,” mentioned one commenter.

John Vinci, an architect who works on the preservation of historic buildings, was unequivocal in his criticism of the calls to take away statues of “former heroes” like Columbus and Abraham Lincoln. Columbus’ legacy has been tarnished by the acts of atrocity he dedicated towards Native People, whereas the co-chairs of the committee beforehand famous in a Solar-Instances op-ed that his statues are on the chopping block attributable to “his historic function as an escalator of Indian elimination.”

“Let’s settle for the previous,” Vinci mentioned. “If you wish to change the dialogue of those sculptures, that’s a good suggestion. However to attempt to erase them is, I feel, a vicious act.”

As soon as the evaluate is accomplished, members of the committee will submit their suggestions on the monuments to the town.

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