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Photograph: CC/Wikimeida Commons/J. Crocker/Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

Aldermen are considering removing the Balbo monument and renaming Balbo Drive

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Chicago may soon be following in the footsteps of Baltimore, where several Confederate monuments were removed earlier this week in the wake of violent protests centered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. The monument in question is a 2,000-year-old Roman column that was given to Chicago by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1933 to commemorate Italian pilot Italo Balbo's transatlantic flight to the city. Chicago also honored the pilot by naming a street after him, Balbo Drive, which runs through Grant Park.

Before Balbo flew to Chicago, he helped bring Mussolini's fascist regime to power in Italy in 1922. Mussolini would go on to ally himself with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during World War II, and was guilty of war crimes that included the use of chemical weapons.

According to the Sun-Times36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas and 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke are pushing to petition the Chicago Park District to remove the Balbo Column and rename Balbo Drive after "a late Chicago mayor who never was honored by having a building or street dedicated to his memory." This movement comes on the heels of a tweet by John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago, who suggested replacing the monument with a tribute to St. Frances Cabrini or Enrico Fermi.

While the Chicago Parks Foundation calls the Balbo column "a celebration of Italian culture," it seems like there are other ways to honor the culture without directly or indirectly acknowledging the accomplishments of a Fascist dictator and a man who helped put him in power.

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