New Orleans has removed statues of Confederate leaders, providing a reminder that many cities — including Chicago — have monuments, street names and other symbols that could offend people. Just this year, Chicago added a new controversial symbol: an honorary street designation for Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, recently freed after 35 years in prison on charges including seditious conspiracy and armed robbery.

Here’s a look at some of Chicago’s potentially offensive public symbols, but first a disclaimer: This is NOT a call for these symbols to be removed. It’s simply an attempt to increase awareness of our history and public places.

Balbo Drive: Italo Balbo was an Italian fascist leader who helped dictator Benito Mussolini rise to power. Balbo led a much-publicized visit of an airplane armada to Chicago during the Century of Progress Exposition in 1933, and Chicago honored him by renaming 7th Street. Some say Chicago’s continued recognition of Balbo is an embarrassing endorsement of fascism. Others say Balbo wasn’t nearly as bad as Mussolini and cite the fact that Balbo opposed anti-Jewish laws and Italy’s alliance with Hitler’s Germany. In any case, the Balbo name survives in Chicago — not only on the street but also on a monument in Burnham Park east of Soldier Field and in an inscription on the base of the Columbus statue at the south end of Grant Park.


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