‘Mon­u­ments to white supremacy’ vs. the legacy of Ital­ians: Opin­ions split af­ter mayor’s move to take down stat­ues

Chicago Sun-Times - - CHICAGO SUN TIMES - BY TINA SFONDELES, PO­LIT­I­CAL REPORTER ts­fonde­les@sun­ | @Ti­naS­fon

Most Chicago al­der­men are prais­ing Mayor Lori Light­foot’s de­ci­sion to re­move Christo­pher Colum­bus stat­ues from Grant Park and an­other on the Near West Side.

But not all are on board for the per­ma­nent re­moval of the stat­ues.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can, said he be­lieves the stat­ues should con­tinue to be “promi­nently dis­played be­cause of their his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the Colum­bus legacy and sym­bol of the many con­tri­bu­tions of Ital­ians to our city and coun­try.”

But the North­west Side al­der­man said he sup­ports the mayor’s de­ci­sion out of pub­lic safety con­cerns.

“I sup­port her [Light­foot’s] de­ci­sion to TEM­PORAR­ILY re­move those stat­ues from harm’s way, so as not to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion and di­vert po­lice re­sources from the is­sues of law­less­ness, an­ar­chy and do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism fac­ing our beloved city and na­tion,” Sposato said in a text mes­sage.

A week af­ter ac­tivists tried and failed to pull down the stat­ues — and vi­o­lent clashes broke out be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers — Light­foot is­sued a state­ment early Fri­day say­ing the stat­ues were re­moved un­til fur­ther no­tice “in re­sponse to demon­stra­tions that be­came un­safe for both pro­test­ers and po­lice, as well as ef­forts by in­di­vid­u­als to in­de­pen­dently pull the Grant Park statue down in an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous man­ner.”

But Light­foot said a for­mal process would soon fol­low to as­sess each mon­u­ment, me­mo­rial and mu­ral across Chicago.

The Grant Park mon­u­ment was re­moved about 3 a.m. Crews also re­moved an­other statue of the Ital­ian ex­plorer in Ar­rigo Park on the Near West Side.

Ald. An­thony Napoli­tano (41st) on Fri­day said he’s very sad­dened by the re­moval, and he ques­tioned the overnight re­moval. He dubbed it “not the Amer­i­can way.”

“It’s be­cause a bunch of peo­ple, a bunch of so­cial­ist can­cel cul­ture peo­ple cried about it that we re­moved it in the mid­dle of the night,” Napoli­tano said. “In Amer­ica, we do this by dis­cus­sion.”

Napoli­tano is 100% Ital­ian. His mother ar­rived from Italy when she was 9, and his fa­ther is a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Ital­ian.

On Fri­day, five of the city’s pro­gres­sive al­der­man in unison called the Colum­bus stat­ues “mon­u­ments to white supremacy,” and they vowed to fight for their per­ma­nent re­moval.

“Chicago’s Christo­pher Colum­bus mon­u­ments have been re­moved — and will stay that way — be­cause of the Indige­nous, Black, and Brown Chicagoans that have been fight­ing for so long to make this hap­pen,” Al­der­men Ros­sana

Ro­driguez (33rd), Car­los Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Daniel La Spata (1st), Jeanette Tay­lor (20th), and By­ron Sig­cho-Lopez (25th) said in a state­ment.

“We thank the ac­tivists and or­ga­niz­ers who put their bod­ies on the line to make this hap­pen, and we com­mit to con­tinue to work to­wards re­plac­ing Colum­bus Day with Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Day, and dis­man­tling white supremacy in all its forms,” the al­der­men said.

North Side Ald. Matt Martin (47th), too, cred­ited the work of or­ga­niz­ers in get­ting the re­moval.

“I hope that the statue’s re­moval is made per­ma­nent, and that it’s re­placed by a me­mo­rial that bet­ter re­flects Chicago’s val­ues,” Martin said.

Ald. Chris Tali­a­ferro (29th), who heads the City Coun­cil’s pub­lic safety com­mit­tee, de­clined to com­ment on the statue re­movals Fri­day.

The Colum­bus stat­ues are the lat­est to come un­der fire as the na­tion grap­ples with calls to end racial in­jus­tice.

Light­foot on Mon­day blamed a group of “vig­i­lantes” for ru­in­ing what could have been a peace­ful protest.

“You’re gonna see video that shows these

peo­ple be­fore they got to the Colum­bus statue kneel­ing down, dress­ing in all black with gog­gles, form­ing a pha­lanx with um­brel­las and with shields around them and then pum­mel­ing po­lice with pro­jec­tiles,” Light­foot said.

“Frozen wa­ter bot­tles, cans, other pro­jec­tiles. There were a num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers that were in­jured as a re­sult of that. That’s not peace­ful protest. That’s an­ar­chy. And we are go­ing to put that down. We are ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing. And we will bring those peo­ple to jus­tice.”


City crews help guide the Christo­pher Colum­bus statue in Grant Park dur­ing its re­moval early Fri­day.


A crane re­moves the Christo­pher Colum­bus statue in Grant Park from its plinth on Fri­day.

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