CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she had the controversial Christopher Columbus statue removed over safety concerns.
CBS 2’s Vi Nguyen has more from Grant Park.
The mayor said there will be a process in place to assess monuments and memorials across the city. It’s not clear what exactly how that process will look like just yet. One thing’s for sure it will include input from the community.
It was last Friday when a violent scene unfolded in Grant Park. It was a clash between Chicago police officers and protesters who were trying to bring down the Christopher Columbus statue. It was taken down late Thursday night.
Kate Masur is an Associate Professor of history at Northwestern University.
“What we’re seeing now is people drawing attention to the complexity of that history questioning whether Columbus is necessary, what he represented, is something we want to continue to honor,” Masur said. “I think in many ways it’s a healthy conversation, sometimes a painful one, sometimes a divisive one. Most by definition it’s divisive.”
Given the recent events in our country, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Masur said:
“There’s just been a rise in consciousness that there are connections between how we understand our past and how we understand issues of race and racism, and racial oppression in the present.”
What about other monuments and statues around Chicago? For example the George Washington monument at Washington Park. Not only was he the first President of the United States, but he was also a slave owner.
Outside of Soldier Field there’s the Balbo monument. We learned from history books it was a gift to the city of Chicago from Benito Mussolini.
“History is a process,” Masur said. “And how we see things in one moment might be different from how we saw them in a different moment.”
Masur believes it should be up to the public, for Chicagoans, to decide what’s next for these statues and monuments. She said city government is the appropriate entity to host these conversations moving forward, conversations about what should be taken down, what merits our honor in present day and what should be put up.
“We’re talking about statues on public property,” Masur noted. “By definition, the city, the public. This is everybody’s responsibility. It should not be having in private. It shouldn’t be having behind close doors.”